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You can't make this stuff up!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Things started to change at the end of the 19th century; ads got shorter, more terse, and less formal. A lot less formal. Like these three, which are right next to each other:



The first one is by far my favorite.

A talented, respectable young lady wishes honorable gentleman of means to assist her; will give saddle horse as security. PARIS, Herald Uptown.

A young lady desires the acquaintance of a gentleman of means. Address SADIE, box 219 Herald Uptown.

A gentleman in town for the holidays on amusement bent would like to meet a young lady similarly inclined. A., 156 Herald Uptown.


"Paris" really does intrigue me. She actually sounds like she means exactly what she says: she'll give him her saddle horse (I'm sorry, but I love that - her saddle horse!!) in exchange for some assistance, presumably with the intention of paying him back one day to get her horse back. But it's so hard not to read between the lines. Women advertised for assistance from gentlemen, and men advertised themselves as potential, er, "patrons" for young ladies in distress. If it was truly innocent, why did she specify a man? Couldn't she have requested aid from a lady - which some people did do and which would put "Paris" in a considerably less compromising position? Couldn't she have just sold the horse? Just because this stuff wasn't openly talked about doesn't mean women were stupid. They read trashy novels then as people still do now. So I can't help wondering if by "saddle horse" she meant "sex."

The second one, Sadie, is also interesting in that her ad looks just like any other from a woman except the part where she left out "object, matrimony." Sadie, apparently, doesn't want to get married. She just wants a rich friend. Once again, she's an idiot if she's not aware that in exchange for his money, she's going to be expected to put out. Sorry, but that's the way it is.

And finally, the "gentleman" in town for the holidays. By "on amusement bent" he means, if you can't figure it out for yourselves, that he's determined to have a good time. Kinda like being on a bender! Party!! I don't think this one needs much editorializing. But I do think that the women who answered - if any - were probably not ladies!! Maybe Sadie and "A." should get together!

Having trouble reading the ads? Click one to enlarge!

©2009 Pam Epstein

4 comments:

BH September 24, 2009 at 11:29 AM  

Compare with and ad yesterday in Seven Days, a weekly from Burlington:
"Straight Shooter, No limit
Another personal Ad. I agree. I am one in many; another fish in the sea. The reality is I am quite a catch and you don't need a net, you just need to drop a line, but it will need to have a good lure (I'm not a big fisherman, but you would think so with that run on sentence). I'm real, fun, attractive,left of center and definitely not typical.

I don't want to waste your time and I don't want to waste mine. If your attractive, risky, intelligent, playful, genuine and adventurous, drop me a line. If not, can't help you."

Of course today's ads have all kinds of additional detail, i.e. "Characteristics", "body type", "Looking for:", etc.

Sort takes all the mystery and fun out of it.

Liz September 24, 2009 at 7:29 PM  

I'm trying to work out if there's some kind of literary allusion in the first one - Paris seems like an odd name, and saddle horse is strangely specific. Maybe there was a pulp novel with an appropriate plot doing the rounds, and this is the equivalent of 'Cathy seeks Heathcliff'...

(Or I could just be wanting it to be all about the cheap romantic fiction.)

Pam September 25, 2009 at 2:44 PM  

BH - Kathy? Is that you? =) (If not, er, sorry.) I like that ad! If I were only in Vermont...

Liz - maybe - but people did adopt very bizarre pseudonyms. It may have just been a way to be sure that there wouldn't be anyone else with the same name picking up mail at the Herald Uptown office?

Liz September 25, 2009 at 3:22 PM  

Pam - you're probably right, and Paris is hardly a completely off-the-wall name to pick for someone with a bit of education and money. The saddle-horse makes it all worth it, whatever the story.

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