Nothing is more charming and delightful to collect than those little dolls that were mass-produced in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
They were made in various styles and sizes, of bisque (unglazed ceramic), porcelain, metal, celluloid, terra cotta, ceramic, composition, wood, rubber and even molded sugar and soap.
The most popular types, known as Frozen Charlottes, were nude, immobile dolls with a bittersweet story associated with them: An old New England ballad written in 1865 tells of poor, vain Charlotte who, on a cold New Year's Eve, dashed out into the freezing night and climbed into an awaiting sleigh driven by her beau Charles who had come to take her to the ball. Because Charlotte (wanting to be seen) ignored her mother's pleas to take along a blanket to keep herself warm, she froze to death on the way to the ball. This caused great grief to her parents, and to Charles who so mourned her death that he died of a broken heart and was buried next to her.
The ballad, which contains numerous verses, says in part: "Oh, daughter dear," her mother said, "this blanket 'round you fold, for it is a dreadful night abroad and you'll get your death of cold." "Nay, mother, nay," fair Charlotte said, and she laughed like a gypsy queen. "To ride in blankets muffled I can never be seen."
The ballad can be found in its entirety in the book "Antique Collector's Dolls, Vol. 1" by Patricia R. Smith, available for $17.95 postpaid from L-W Promotions, Box 69, Gas City, Ind. 46933. Another book for identifying Frozen Charlotte dolls and other types is "All-Bisque and Half-Bisque Dolls" by Genevieve Angione, available for $20 from the same place.
Aside from Frozen Charlottes, which were three-quarters of an inch and larger, there were Frozen Charlies, representing Charlotte's beau. Like Frozen Charlottes, Frozen Charlies are naked and don't move. Charlies, however, are usually bigger than Charlottes and can measure up to 16 inches high. Many of the earlier Charlottes and Charlies are chubby-looking, molded in one solid piece, with arms extended as holding a steering wheel. The Charlottes and Charlies come from Germany and were made between 1850 and 1914.
Then, there are tiny Frozen Charlotte bathtub dolls sitting in a tub. Some have long hair flowing to their feet; others wear gilt boots, or shoes and socks molded on.
Another Frozen Charlotte doll doubled as a bank with the words "patent Germany" on the back. These are plump little girls with molded blond hair and painted-on features: because they had no opening for getting money out, few survive.
Most Frozen Charlotte dolls were sold undressed, so mothers and daughters often would make little clothes for them. However, if you find such a doll dressed in homemade clothes, examine its body underneath the clothes which can, and often do, disguise a broken or damaged doll. These can be purchased inexpensively, but perfect examples cost much more, depending on features, size and type.
Also popular in the 1880s and '90s were numerous little dolls with china heads, arms and feet attached to nankeen cloth bodies in varying sizes. Such dolls were sold undressed (the clothes are almost always homemade) and were used in dollhouses since they wre jointed and were able to sit, unlike the Frozen Charlottes.
Another kind of doll, called a Half-Frozen Charlotte, has arms attached to the body by a wire that goes through the shoulders. These are "frozen" except for their arms, with straight, skinny little bodies. Other half-frozen types have fleshier bodies with little bellies and buttocks popping out.
There were also many rudely made Frozen Charlotte-style dolls that were popular in the 1920s and '30s and sold inexpensively as cake decorations and party favors. Such dolls were mass-produced in Germany, Japan and the United States. Most of them are made of bisque; some are glazed china.
Because they were made on a production line to be sold dirt-cheap, such dolls often had facial features painted on in a hit-and-miss fashion, adding to their charm. Some, dating from the 1920s, have tiny arms molded on their chests as if clutching their hearts, thus the label "hand-on-my-heart" dolls. Such dolls stand two inches high.
Another inch-high doll was made of pewter or a leadlike material. Others, measuring one to two inches high, are made of a pasty-looking bisque material which gives them a sugary-looking appearance, and the label "sugar babies."
And some tiny dolls from this period were molded of sugar and used as cake decorations. The visages and shapes of these little dolls are countless: Kewpies, comic strip and story book characters, brides and grooms, babies, boys and girls, famous people (Amelia Earhart dolls are worth $115 each), football players, gnomes, angels and Snow Babies. Not too many of these sugar dolls are around: most were eaten.