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