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  • Writer's pictureNancy Rogers

A Penny for Your Thoughts

I found this tiny doll next door to True Blue Plantation. It was six-inches beneath the soil next to ruins of the foundation of a small cabin that I believed to be one of the original slaves houses at Midway Plantation, the plantation just north of True Blue.

A new house sits there, now. I doubt that the couple who live in it knows the history of the property. I’m sure they’d care, but that’s what happens when developers build on historic property.

This little doll is most often referred to as a PENNY BISQUE DOLL. Similar dolls of the same era (1920s through the 1940s) have other names: frozen dolls, frozen Charlotte dolls or Nippon dolls.

Penny bisque dolls are usually about 3-inches long and they are ceramic bisque, meaning that they are made of porcelain clay that was fired, but only once. Why are they called Penny Dolls? Because they cost a penny, today’s equivalent of $1.50.

A frozen doll is also a bisque doll, but the doll’s arms and legs are stationary.

Nippon dolls are dolls that were made in Japan, which makes sense when you know that Nippon means: Land of the Rising Sun.

Frozen Charlotte dolls were porcelain doll torsos that were baked into children’s cakes to surprise children during birthday parties.

Children living on the old plantations during the time these dolls were produced, were largely children of subsistence farmers growing just enough food to feed their families. If they were lucky, they might have had enough land to grow enough to sell off the back of a wagon or truck. Truck Farmers, we call them today.

In either case, they would have been impoverished by today’s standards, although they probably think of themselves are poor at the time. Spending the equivalent of $1.50 for a doll in those days would have been a big deal.

I’m guessing that little girls probably jealously collected their dolls and even slept with them. When I look at this little broken doll I wonder who the last child to have touched it was. My best guess is that my doll dates from the 1920s—a hundred years ago: a tiny doll for a tiny little girl living in the middle of nowhere, that was once, somewhere.

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