Tag Archives: Oatlands Gaol

Falling Dominos Lost Beyond the Floor

These dominos were found at the Oatlands Goal, under the floor boards in the Gaoler’s Bedroom. There were four dominos found altogether, from two different sets with two different dates. The first set is made from bone and ebony with red lines and black dots; there are three of these dominos and they date from 1700 to 1800.

During the 17th and 18th centuries dominos appeared in Europe and were originally made from animal bone, including ivory, which was quite expensive. The holes of the domino were drilled into the rectangles of animal bone and were then inlaid with pieces of ebony. Many domino sets were handmade during this time by French prisoners of war and also by sailors, who used whatever resources were on hand (Domino Play 2013). The interesting fact about the date of the first set of dominos from Oatlands is that the Gaol only opened in 1836. This means that the set may have been brought with a prisoner or by the Gaoler before the Gaol opened.


Dominos made from bone and ebony with a red line pattern, made from 1700 to 1800

The second set is made from bone, ebony with a brass pin; this single domino is dated from 1800-1855.  In the 19 – 20th centuries dominos were made from narrow pieces of bone that were glued together and fixed with a brass pin in the centre; these were called spinners. In 1855 Frenchman Charles Lepage invented plastic and dominos became much cheaper and quicker to produce (Domino Play 2013).

These two different types of domino may have belonged to the Grover family and/or the Pegus family. The Grover family lived in the Gaol from 1838 to 1840 and the Pegus family from 1841 to 1858.

A bone and ebony domino with a brass ‘spinner’ made from 1800-1855

A bone and ebony domino with a brass ‘spinner’ made from 1800-1855

Frozen Charlotte listen to your mother!

These dolls are almost a symbol of archaeology—life and moments frozen in time and discovered under the ground.

Frozen Charlotte dolls, such as the one in the Oatlands gaol collection, were made of glazed porcelain and were also known as bathing dolls or penny dolls. Frozen Charlottes and Frozen Charlies (Charlotte’s male counterpart) were made from about 1850 until 1914. These dolls had immovable arms with clenched fists, painted hair styles and painted faces. They were usually made to be about 20 inches tall (50 cm), but could be much smaller and were painted in black, white and pink. Older versions of these dolls used a cheaper clay body, their age can be told by the identification of flecks in the porcelain (Darbyshire 1990:40.)

Frozen Charlottes were created as a representation of the poem ‘A Corpse Going to a Ball’ by Seba Smith.  Smith wrote the poem in 1843 after reading an article in the paper describing a young woman who had frozen to death on a sleigh ride on the way to a ball. The poem, which is also a song, warns young women to listen to their parents, not to concern themselves with fashion and to look after their health (Lord 1966:4.)

This Frozen Charlotte below was found under the floor boards in the Gaoler’s Bedroom of the Oatlands Gaol. Her hair style suggests that she was made in about 1890. Given this age range, this Frozen Charlotte may have belonged to the families of the superintendents who lived in the Gaol from 1878.

Frozen Charlotte found at Oatlands Gaol

Frozen Charlotte found at Oatlands Gaol

A Frozen Charlotte was also found at the new Adelaide Hospital site by Dr Keryn Walshe in March 2012. The doll on the right below is the doll that was found at the new Adelaide Hospital site and the doll on the left is an example of a Frozen Charlotte from a private collection. The doll found at the new Adelaide Hospital site is shorter than the one found at Oatlands.

Frozen Charlotte found at the new Adelaide Hospital site (image from Adelaidenow.com.au)

Frozen Charlotte found at the new Adelaide Hospital site (image from Adelaidenow.com.au)

It’s an ace!

As part of my Directed Study in archaeology I have been researching information about the toys that were found under the floor boards in the Oatlands Gaol, Tasmania.

So far I have had little success in gaining information about the toys, but this week I have had some success. In my collection I have an ace of spades printed by the United States Playing Card Co. It is a Bicycle playing card, number 808. The ace of spades depicts the statue of freedom, which in 1865 was placed on top of the Capitol Building in Washington DC.

The 808 series of playing cards was printed in three colours—red, green and blue—and was introduced in 1885. The ace of spades in my collection is a racer number 1 series, which was introduced in 1895 and ran until 1906.

As mentioned in my earlier post, I am trying to match the date of the toys to families who lived in the  Gaolers’ Residence. From 1895 to 1906 there were six families living in the gaol, and the date range of the card spans the majority of this occupation. Three of the families had children, however playing cards were used more by adults than by children.

I have contacted the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery and am hoping that they will be able to provide me with more information about the other toys in my collection. ImageImage