The ballad of Fair Charlotte was first published in The Rover, a Maine newspaper, on December 28, 1843. It is a story of a young girl called Charlotte who did not listen to her mother and who refused to wrap up warmly to go on a sleigh ride to a New Year's ball. Upon arriving at the ball, her fiancé discovers that she has frozen to death during the journey. According to folklorist Phillips Barry, Smith's composition was based on an incident recounted in a 1840 New York Observer article of the same name. The Observer reported on February 8, 1840, that a girl had frozen to death on her way to a ball on January 1, 1840. A version of Smith's poem was subsequently set to music, leading to the creation of the ballad. During the 20th century, a version of the ballad was sung by Almeda Riddle under the title Young Carlotta.
There are more tales to go with frozen Charlotte dolls. They were all made in the form of a standing naked doll. They were also called pillar dolls, solid chinas, or bathing babies and ranged in size from an inch to 18 inches. The smaller ones sold for a penny...hence the penny doll theme...and the minis were often baked in Christmas puddings (teeth be damned, I suppose). Little ones also lived in doll houses and sometimes were frozen for real and put in tea to cool it off.
Occasionally versions are seen with a glazed china front and an unglazed stoneware back. This enabled the doll to float on its back when placed in a bath. Frozen Charlotte dolls were popular during the late 19th and early 20th centuries in the United States. Most were made in Germany. They are also made in bisque, and can come in white, pink-tinted, or, more rarely, painted black.
Well, we have frozen Charlotte heads repurposed for a truly unique accent piece! We have sold a couple of these, but more are coming...great hostess gifts or special holiday treasures! Made by a local artisan, these definitely make a statement...you can create your own cautionary tale to go with them!
"When your mother asks, 'Do you want a piece of advice?' it is a mere formality. It doesn't matter if you answer yes or no. You're going to get it anyway." ~Erma Bombeck
For those who are interested...here is the Seba Smith poem:
Now, Charlotte lived on the mountainside, in a bleak and dreary spot,
There was no house for miles around, except her father's cot;
And yet on many a wintry night young swains were gathered there,
For her father kept a social board, and she was very fair.
One New Year's Eve as the sun went down, far looked her wishful eye,
Out from the frosty window pane as merry sleighs went by;
In a village fifteen miles away, was to be a ball that night,
And though the air was heavy and cold, her heart was warm and light.
How brightly beamed her laughing eye, as a well-known voice was heard,
And driving up to the cottage door, her lover's sleigh appeared;
"O, daughter dear," her mother cried, "This blanket 'round you fold,
It is a dreadful night tonight, you'll catch your death of cold."
"O, nay! O, nay!" young Charlotte cried, and she laughed like a gypsy queen,
"To ride in blankets muffled up, I never would be seen;
My silken cloak is quite enough, you know 'tis lined throughout,
Besides, I have my silken scarf to twine my neck about."
Her bonnet and her gloves were on, she stepped into the sleigh,
Rode swiftly down the mountain side, and o'er the hills away;
With muffled face and silent lips, five miles at length were passed,
When Charles with few and shivering words, the silence broke at last.
"Such a dreadful night I never saw, the reins I scarce can hold."
Fair Charlotte shivering faintly said, "I am exceeding cold."
He cracked his whip, he urged his steed much faster than before,
And thus five other dreary miles in silence were passed o'er.
Said Charles, "How fast the shivering ice is gathering on my brow."
And Charlotte still more faintly said, "I'm growing warmer now."
So on they rode through frosty air and glittering cold starlight,
Until at last the village lamps and the ballroom came in sight.
They reached the door and Charles sprang out, he reached his hand for her,
She sat there like a monument that has no power to stir;
He called her once, he called her twice, she answered not a word,
He asked her for her hand again, and still she never stirred.
He took her hand in his - O, God! 'Twas cold and hard as stone,
He tore the mantle from her face, cold stars upon it shone;
Then quickly to the glowing hall, her lifeless form he bore,
Fair Charlotte's eyes were closed in death, her voice was heard no more.
And there he sat down by her side, while bitter tears did flow,
And cried, "My own, my charming bride, you never more will know."
He twined his arms around her neck, he kissed her marble brow,
His thoughts flew back to where she said, "I'm growing warmer now."
He carried her back to the sleigh, and with her he rode home,
And when he reached the cottage door, O, how her parents mourned;
Her parents mourned for many a year, and Charles wept in the gloom,
Till at last her lover died of grief, and they both lie in one tomb.