Page 70

68

of the world), and often viewed as cons and thieves. When they would arrive in a new village, they were met with an equal amount of excitement (over the exotic wares they brought with them from the bigger cities) and fear. I am quite confident that my parian peddler was never a traveling sales woman; rather, she looks like a doll dealer having a bad show, and thus lies her appeal for me. Frozen Charlottes are another one of my favorites, and my dear lady has no less than eight offered on her table, including two black ones, a clownish gentleman with a funny hat and mustache, two blondes, and three very tiny ones adored with jewelry and homemade lace clothes. These stiff, immobile dolls were produced in Germany between 1850 and 1930, and probably found their way to my lady’s table of wares fairly early in their lives. Though hard to believe, Frozen Charlottes were truly play dolls – they have the amusing ability to float in the tub. (Anyone who has a child knows how popular bathing dolls and toys remain with today’s toddler class). Indeed, they were originally called (most properly) “Bathing Dolls”, until sometime during this century they became associated with a whimsical little morality poem about “Young Charlotte”, a vain socialite who froze to death on the way to a winter ball because she refused to cover her fine clothes in a heavy woolen blanket. (As an interesting aside, Young Charlotte is said to have “laughed like a gypsy queen” at the suggestion of bundling up in the cold; this really should tell you something about how gypsies and peddlers were viewed during this time period). While Frozen Charlottes are clearly “dolls”; are peddlers dolls too? Well, most people define a doll as a “child’s plaything in human form, either jointed or un-jointed” (at least, this is the definition that I go by on my web site). Frozen Charlottes fit that criteria, as they were played with in the bath by children – but what about peddlers? There is little evidence to suggest that “peddlers” were ever played

with. If you look at them, firmly attached to their tables or baskets, their wares sewn on glued in place, there is little opportunity for “play”- you really can’t do a thing with them. Yet, the parian at the heart of the scene was indeed made by a doll factory, and she was made to be a child’s plaything. However, this “former doll” was forced to take her seat at the table of wares, and in doing so, ceases to be a doll. (I threw in this interesting psychological question about the nature of dolls so that you can see how seriously I study doll-ology). At any rate, in her present form, I would call my beloved parian peddler more of a “Victorian novelty”, a curiosity that perhaps graced some upper class woman’s parlor or mantle, a conversation piece for friends who came calling during leisurely afternoons. So it’s ironic that I, a doll dealer who does not usually collect dolls, am absolutely enthralled with this doll who is also a doll dealer, but ironically, not technically a doll at all! Why did I decide to keep her? Why could I never let her go? Is it because of her beautiful parian head? Because of the many Frozen Charlottes she displays, which I have always admired? Is it because she’s unusual for her type – the sole parian peddler in a sea of wax-over and wooden head ones? No, dear reader, it’s far more simple than that. I think that I keep her because she reminds me of me. I know what it’s like to sit at a doll show, peddling my wares. I know what it’s like to have a good show, where you sell everything and wish you brought even more, and what it’s like to have a bad show, when it seems like no one is interested in what you brought (fortunately, I haven’t had one of those in a long time, knock on wood, but one never forgets the dreadful feeling). I keep her because she’s not a doll, but because she’s a doll dealer, like me. Now if only I could look so well-coiffed and well-attired at my next doll show! Author Debra Gulea is the owner of Debra’s Dolls of Mullica Hill, NJ.

Profile for Antique Doll Collector Magazine

September 2010  

Special Chase Dolls • All Bisques • Meet the Bumsteads • Dolls’ Houses from the Old Salem Toy Museum • UFDC Salesroom • Antique Blue Ribbon...

September 2010  

Special Chase Dolls • All Bisques • Meet the Bumsteads • Dolls’ Houses from the Old Salem Toy Museum • UFDC Salesroom • Antique Blue Ribbon...