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Cheer up, Charlie

Saturday, May 9, 2009

One of the most fascinating, as well as the most frustrating, issues that you have to deal with when working with sources like this is that of legitimacy. The ad by Don Zacharias is just one of plenty of examples of ads that I think - and in rare occasions actually know - are fake. But of course, historians don't get to speculate. We have to prove. So what do you do when you run across something like this?

See the full text below:

Dear -----------:
Knowing you to be cognizant of the circumstances that surround us both, and also how deeply anxious I am to have you know my utmost thoughts, I am emboldened to use this Personal column as a medium to write you, hoping you will excuse the liberty I take in doing so. Dear -----, it is now several years since I first saw your sweet face...before my enraptured gaze, causing this perverse heart of mine to vibrate with the keenest and most exquisite emotions that have ever agitated the breast of mortal since the days of Adam. I loved you, and through years of trials and vicissitudes has this fond heart kept [true] to that sweet melody that was first awakened in me in that auspicious time, hoping against hope that I might once more behold you, and that the fates would relent and let me look into the depths of those sweet eyes again; but years flew by and still I saw you not, until at last I gave you up as one who had gone to that [place] from whence no traveller [sic] returns. Can you imagine what must have been the electrical effect upon me when I once more beheld you? Oh God, what fervent thanks I gave thee that my prayer ad been heard at last. Now can you read the secret of my actions since your resurrection? And as I hear your dulcet voice once more making music on mine ear comes the old longing in this fond heart of mine, and although the circumstances which surround us look dark and lowering still, I will make an appeal to you, an appeal which your actions towards me cause a lingering ray of hope to illuminate my path, that this will not be in vain. I have long wanted to ask you a question, a question fraught with all the future welfare of my life. Have you in some remote corner of your heart some tender feeling, and does your thoughts ever revert to me? Do you love me? Will you answer this all absorbing question the next time we meet? Will you utter that winsome “Yes” fraught with all the golden dreams of heavenly realms, or will you pronounce the dread “No,” and consign my soul to darkness and despair? Please answer and oblige yours, forever, Charlie
New York, Jan. 18, 1870

Oh Charlie, where to begin?

If you're reading this and laughing, join the club. I don't believe this is real. I just don't. I'd like to know if anyone out there is reading this and thinks, hey, this guy could be legit, right? Maybe it's the cynic in me, I don't know, but I'm not buying what Charlie's selling.

But if that's the case, why do I believe Bertram is sincere, and Charlie is not? And if it's not real, we're dealing with same issue we had with Don Zacharias below, because who is the guy who can throw away quite a lot of money to print this ridiculous item just for kicks?

I'll get more into the question of who, exactly, is reading these ads at some future date, but I know for a fact at least two women saw this one, because, yes, we have some replies:

This poor girl printed her ad two days in a row.

If "Personal" of the 18th of January is from thee, my Charlie, give me the first initial of thy next name, and make sure that my poor broken heart can yet revive.

A second woman was much pithier:

Charlie. - Yes; come.

Was Charlie at home laughing his ass off when he read "give me the initial of thy next name, and make sure that my poor broken heart can yet revive"? Or did he feel pity? Or was the whole thing, perhaps, true?

Sadly, I don't get to find out, and I don't get to guess. But what I do get to do is talk a lot about what ads like this provided for the people who were actually reading the newspaper on a regular basis. Because, really, if you were reading the paper one morning and ran across Charlie's ad, wouldn't you be amused?

Is that what Charlie wanted?

Oh, the questions never end!

Having trouble reading the ads? Click one to enlarge!

©2009 Pam Epstein


TW May 26, 2009 at 2:41 PM  

Oh Pam,
I think you are a cynic. I was nearly crying (whilst sitting at my desk at work) reading that. Call me the hopeless romantic...but I just imagined a lonely, sad, bespeckled little man who was probably something horribly boring like an accountant writing that to a long lost love he'd just recently bumped into on the street.
But then again...I'm the sad sop that continues to watch every season of the Bachelorette and Bachelor hoping that THIS season will be the season that it truly works out for the end couple.

Miss You!!!

Pam May 26, 2009 at 6:56 PM  

Trust me, there are lots of ads I think are real (see the entry from May 15), but this one just...I don't buy it.

Keep reading - there will be more to come!


Anonymous June 2, 2009 at 4:09 PM  


As you have pointed out elsewhere, it must have been very costly for a prankster to publish an ad like this. I wonder whether some of these ads (Charlie's being an example) could have been composed by the newspaper itself just to excite it's readers' imagination. Have you found any evidence of this?

Pam June 2, 2009 at 4:21 PM  

@Anonymous - that's a really good question and one that's hard to answer, unfortunately for me. The rival newspaper to this particular paper said so in one critique, but I've never found any one else who even considered that possibility. I think in this particular instance, or ones like it, it wouldn't be surprising, since the papers really wanted the Personals column to be a draw for readers. But in general the personals were a significant source of this paper's revenue so I think that would be rare.

Joan of Argghh! March 13, 2010 at 12:19 PM  

I don't buy it, either. The style is there, but the form of it is off, somehow. All of the questions posed throughout give it the feel of a modern-day spoof of a "stay tuned for the next gripping episode" of Soap.

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