A dear and darling doll
This one was discovered in a trash pit near stores and businesses. We can imagine that children in a merchant’s family may have played with the doll, and threw it away after it broke.
His Charlotte was a stiffened corpse
In the poem, a girl named Charlotte is invited to a New Year’s Eve dance with her boyfriend. She refuses to wear her coat because she wants everyone to see her pretty dress. When they finally arrive at the dance, Charlotte’s boyfriend found that her hand “‘twas cold and hard as stone”:
His Charlotte was a stiffen’d corpse, And word spake never more!
During the 1800s, San Jose was home to people who emigrated from many countries. Chinese American children in the Market Street Chinatown attended public schools with children from around the world, and people from all ethnic backgrounds visited the Chinatown to shop, conduct business, and eat at Chinese restaurants.
More than a toy?
The Frozen Charlotte doll pictured below is at the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis. This doll wears a home-made dress. Perhaps children in the Market Street Chinatown stitched up outfits like this for their own dolls!
Building a doll family
The dolls represent the Chinese family ideal: many generations all living together, from babies to grandparents. Children learned to imagine the dolls together in the courtyard of a fancy Chinese home. Maybe the Frozen Charlotte doll became part of a doll family like this one!
Sylvia Eng: The doll in the cake (video)
“There Was a Chinatown Here” by Market Street Chinatown Archaeology Project (Chinese Historical and Cultural Project, Stanford University, and History San Jose) is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.