Frozen Charlotte Doll

Video Transcript

I'm standing in front of two re-created cottages that we've installed at Museum Victoria. We've used a myriad of archival resources as the basis of these cottages, and we believe that they're fairly representative of those that would have been seen in Little Lon at the time.

In the late 19th century, Little Lon, an inner-city block in Melbourne, was notorious for being a den of iniquity - rife with brothels and pubs. But Little Lon was also home to a really culturally diverse population, with people from Syria, Ireland, Italy, England, China, India -  and it was also home to families, the working classes. People who lived and played in the lanes, and also living alongside these families we had light industry, and cottage industries.

We've been able to uncover many secrets about Little Lon thanks to a number of archaeological digs that have taken place in the area between 1988 and the present. These digs uncovered over 500,000 artefacts, the majority of  which today are housed at Museum Victoria. These artefacts have allowed us to establish that people who lived in Little Lon, though the working poor, wore jewellery, brushed their teeth, took Holloway's ointment, drank beer and Champagne, and ate oysters. And they also show us that there were a number of children that lived in the area that played.

I'm sitting in the living room of one of the re-created houses of Little Lon and I have with me here a frozen Charlotte doll. Dolls like this, or parts there of, were found alongside knuckle-bones, dice, toy guns, tea sets - evidence that children lived and played in the lanes and in the homes. Frozen Charlotte dolls originated in America in the late 19th century and were popular until the early 20th century. They're porcelain, unjointed dolls, and they range in size from 25 to 100 millimetres. They were known as 'penny dolls' because they only cost one cent, which means they would have been affordable to the poor and the working-classes.

What we also found during the digs, which was really exciting, were two whittled pieces of wood that we believe are Charlotte dolls, which shows us, that those that couldn't afford the porcelain one-penny dolls fashioned their own and they were very much partaking in popular culture and fashions of the day.

About this Video

Charlotte Smith talks about a favourite object in The Melbourne Story exhibition, Frozen Charlotte Doll
Length: 2:49

Related Resources