Thursday, January 12, 2012

1890 Frozen Charlotte Doll with Homemade Wardrobe & Cigar Box Armoire

Oh, I just love love love these sorts of toys: homemade, much-loved things that have been kept together for a century (or more!) and come with information about their original owner. This was another of my favorite Christmas gifts.

This wonderful dolly's armoire was made from two cigar boxes, probably by a father or grandfather. 11 inches tall, the armoire still retains many of its original cigar labels, including one with a patent date of 1886. The decoration on the outside of the box was applied, and consists of antique paper which gives an appearance of marquetry. The words on the armoire seemed rather cryptic, but research revealed "Our Dickie" was a pet name used for the pictured canary bird in the 1890s, while "Lula" was a popular girl's name at the same time.

 The inside shelves, with original cigar box labels. 

According to the pencilled note on the back of the armoire, this belonged to a little girl named (as nearly as I can decipher) Dorthea Sison, who lived in Maryville, Missouri, a town founded in 1845 in Nodaway County.

Still more historical information was found inside the armoire. Written on a beautiful Victorian Easter scrap were the words: "From Miss Pressler 1890."

Who was Miss Pressler? Perhaps a teacher, governess, or friend of the family? That part remains a mystery. My guess is she gave Dorthea the little Frozen Charlotte doll, 4 1/4 inches tall, who lives in the "Lula" labelled bottom drawer of the armoire:

My heart skipped a beat when I slid open the drawer to reveal this!


The little blonde doll has a particularly lovely face; however, her hands are broken off. But since Dorthea clearly didn't care, neither do I! (Besides, you can't tell they're missing when she's dressed...)

Dorthea made an entire wardrobe and even some accessories for her little doll, including red silk bloomers, a matching laundry bag, several blouses, two lace dresses, a cape, a blue tweed coat, a pillow, and even a tiny belt made from an orange ribbon and an itty bitty buckle.

 A second set of clothes in a larger size appear to have been made for a companion doll who is now, sadly, missing. These pieces include a feedsack apron and a black lace mourning veil.

Everything packs neatly
into the armoire for storage:

Somehow, this small lot of much-loved toys made their way from Missouri to an estate sale in New Hampshire, and from there, to an antique doll dealer in metropolitan Detroit before coming home with me. Quite a journey for such fragile toys! I plan to keep them together for the rest of my life, but who knows where Dorthea's dolly may travel to then?


  1. Wow, what an amazing find, Tracy! You can just imagine how much love some little girl had for this doll. I wonder if she made the wardrobe herself, or if the mysterious Miss Pressler made it for her. Or if she just stashed the Easter card in there as a treasured memento. That's really wonderful that you found the collection intact. :)

    - Grace

  2. That is completely awesome! It's one of the reasons I love old many memories attached to them.

  3. I think that she'd be thrilled to know that you have the doll and armoire now.