Thursday, October 8, 2009
These two ads were, as you see, right next to each other on the same day, and are so suspiciously similar that I can't help wondering if there's some kind of... something... going on. But their addresses are just nowhere near each other, and one of them was in the Navy. So I don't know how they could be connected. See for yourselves:
A young gentleman, residing in the rural districts of Pennsylvania, between the age of 18 and 20 years, is desirous of forming the acquaintance of some fascinating young lady, matrimony being the object. Young ladies ranging from 16 to 20 are invited to apply. Enclose carte de visite. Address E.G.J., Hazleton, Luzerne county, Pa.
A young gentleman of high respectability, eighteen years of age, and pronounced by his friends to be handsome, wishes to open a correspondence with a young lady with a view to connubial felicity. She must be of an unquestionable character, handsome, and accomplished. Address with full name, Harry, U.S.S. Galena, Newport's News, Va.
They're so young! I can't imagine looking for a husband when I was 18!! But of course this wasn't so rare back then. It's just so strange to me.
Well, for once, I don't think the similarity is actually a sign that they're part of a weird conspiracy; it's more likely that both these guys are borrowing very heavily from etiquette manuals. There are enough similarities between all these ads - as I'm sure you've noticed if you've been reading all along - that I think it's safe to assume that at least some of the catch phrases ("kind-hearted," "affectionate disposition," "with a view to matrimony," etc, etc) are coming from the same places. Not that people didn't talk like this back then - they did - but sometimes ads are virtually identical, and given the extreme popularity of etiquette manuals at the time, it would only make sense that people would utilize them, even in such odd circumstances.
Anyways, there is a funny tendency on the part of men to say that they're "between 18 and 20" or "35 and 40" or "not 30" (as in, not yet 30) which I find kind of hilarious. If you're between 18 and 20 then you're...18, 19, or 20. I mean, what's the difference at that point? Why not save money and just say you're 19? What's with the evasion? But I do like the first one - he wants to meet some "fascinating" young lady. Aw. What a romantic. I like this a lot, too, dissertation-wise, because it indicates how widely read these ads were. This comes from a big city newspaper not anywhere near Luzerne county, Pennsylvania - yet this guy is printing his ad here anyway, which means he, at least, subscribed to this paper. Or, he might also be desperate.
But hang on! This is in the midst of the Civil War! How on earth is a 18-20 year old man not either (a) off at war, or (b) at least affected by it to the point he's not thinking about fascinating young ladies? He must know if he hasn't enlisted yet, he'll probably have to soon (pre-draft, post-everyone knew this was was going to last forever). Maybe, just maybe, now's not the time to be settling down. Weird.
Now, Harry was most certainly at war. If you clicked on the link, you'll see that the U.S.S. Galena was one of the Union Navy's first ironclads, which is pretty cool. I should add that either Harry or the typesetter got confused, because as far as I know it's never been called "Newport's News." Notable to me is that Harry wants to get the woman's full name, but doesn't give his own, which is in itself interesting, because what are the odds that only one man on the ship is named Harry? If his name was something more unique, that would be one thing, but Harry was a pretty common name. The Galena according to Wikipedia, had a total crew of about 164 men. There had to be at least two named Harry!
My favorite part of this ad, though, is the "connubial felicity" bit. Should I ever try online dating again, I'm going to say that's what I'm looking for. Do you think it'll go over well?
Tomorrow's post will be later than usual, but it will be there (at least I hope - most hotels have wireless internet access these days, right?).
Having trouble reading the ads? Click one to enlarge!
©2009 Pam Epstein