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An agent

Friday, October 30, 2009

There is a whole aspect of my dissertation that I haven't covered here yet - and probably won't much - which is the development of matrimonial "agencies," which were much more common than you'd expect. They got especially popular, or at least much more common, by the turn of the twentieth century, but were around well before that. Generally, they functioned more like eHarmony than like, if you wanted to make a modern-day comparison. (Unlike both of those, however, most agencies that I've found were frauds).

So I thought I'd put up an ad or two now and then from some of these agencies, and figured I'd start with these two because they are so odd (and oddities are what this blog thrives on).

This one ran for several days. It reads:

Matrimonial - Marriageble ladies and gentlemen everywhere. - For ten cents and stamp I will send my "proposed arrangement for mutual benefit" to any address, in sealed envelope. This is no humbug, for I am governed by strictly Christian principles and mutually interested. Address T. Samuel, New York Post office.

This is actually not a typical ad from an agency, which tended to be more straightforward and less mysterious. The "proposed arrangement for mutual benefit" is, I assume, some kind of tract or, more likely, an offer to set men and women up with each other. But it is a very weird way of putting it.

T. Samuel, I get the impression, was not quite right in the head. Here is the follow-up to this ad. It reads:

Matrimonial. - My "proposed arrangement," (see Herald from 18th to 21st), meets with a response worth the object; from North and South, East and West, and is most truly a "Union Movement." Send (for 10 cents and stamp) in sealed envelope, to any address. Address T. Samuel, New York City Post office."

Apparently in just six days (this ad was printed on the 23rd), T. Samuel, despite his cryptic style, has received quite a lot of answers. My guess on the "Union Movement" is that he is referring to the impending crisis of the Civil War, which is going to start in less than a year (everyone knew it was coming). Love, says T. Samuel, knows no regional boundaries. Too bad he's incapable of explaining himself in sentences that make sense.

Despite his promises that this is for real, I suspect it was a "humbug." That 10 cents you're investing for his "proposed arrangement" is lining Samuel's pocket. Whatever he's promised, it ain't coming.

Having trouble reading the ads? Click one to enlarge!

©2009 Pam Epstein


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