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People say the darndest things

Monday, July 20, 2009

Every now and then (well, more frequently than you might think), I run across matrimonials in which the advertisers make the oddest requests. This woman, for example. Here's what she has to say:

An American lady, 19 years old, is looking for a husband between the ages of thirty-five and fifty; must not object to children, as the advertiser has a male child to care for; would prefer a sea captain; no objection to a widower if possessed of a kind heart and means. No abolitionists need apply. Address, inclosing carte de visite if convenient, Fanny, box 201 Herald office.

I thought of this ad for today because she is particularly interested in a sea captain, but since this ad was published almost forty years before the one on Thursday, I don't think they would have worked out. Still, what a funny ad! Why would she prefer a sea captain? Maybe she likes sailing? Or perhaps because he wouldn't be home a whole lot, so she wouldn't actually have to see him very often? And, here's the thing that really gets me. You're composing a personal advertisement in order to find your future spouse. You're coming up with all the things that matter to you about the person you're going to spend the rest of your life with. And what you decide to put as a big priority is..."no abolitionists."

Um, okay. Clearly someone was pro-slavery! Now, this ad dates from 1860, less than a year before the Civil War began, when tensions were pretty high between the North and South. So I guess people who have very strong feelings on one side or the other might think it's important enough to mention in a personal ad, although you'd think that'd be something easily found out in the first letter or two. I suppose she just really, really, really didn't even want to accidentally talk to an abolitionist.

Too bad for her, though; five years later being an abolitionist or not was irrelevant. For once, I can't say I'm sorry things didn't work out for her as she would have liked.

Having trouble reading the ads? Click one to enlarge!

©2009 Pam Epstein


Matt July 20, 2009 at 9:31 AM  

A sea captain would make a good husband! Just think -- he would be a man of means and social status and he would be away for months, even years at a time.

As for the abolitionists... I can imagine that someone who didn't care much about slavery one way or another might have thought they were sanctimonious prats. I mean, can you IMAGINE a datye with William Lloyd Garrison?

Bianca C July 20, 2009 at 9:26 PM  

Saying no abolitionists would also be a good way to avoid certain religions - Quakers, Unitarians, Revivalists. I am presuming someone who wanted an older sea captain, and also had a son at 19 (where is papa? dead already or split town?) might want to avoid people of such religious enthusiasm.

Of course, this could also be a displaced Southern Belle looking for someone of similar sympathies that might be able to take her home from time to time. :-)

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