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Mail-order bride

Friday, October 2, 2009

It's funny; there's another ad from the same day this one is from that is so amusing - I'll post it eventually - that I never even noticed this matrimonial before. But it's interesting, so I thought I'd post it:


Matrimonial. - A gentleman of 35, a resident of California, and possessing a fair income from his business there, desires to marry a warm-hearted and amiable young lady of about 25. She must be presentably good looking, neat, and a good housewife. The subscriber is of a sociable and affectionate disposition, has no bad habits, and is told by his friends that he will make a good husband. The lady must be prepared to go out per steamer of April 11, and may depend that this advertisement is written in honorable sincerity. Address, during the present week, San Francisco, Broadway Post office.

There's something about this man that I like. He seems pragmatic and yet - to put it in 19th century terms - very amiable. I wonder a little about someone who says he wants a woman who can jump on a boat with him by April 11, which is four months after the ad was posted. That's not such a long time these days; back then it was certainly a short courtship, but not unheard of. Still - it's asking quite a lot from a woman to move across country - it's not like she could fly home to visit her family every few months - based on a relationship of only a few months.

It may seem a little sketchy why a man from California is looking for a wife in New York (I was skeptical about the guy in Hungary) but of course at the time there were no women in California. The male-to-female ratio was massively skewed because of the 1849 Gold Rush. At its worst, it was 40-1; that number was somewhat smaller by the time of this ad, but it was still not good. So it makes sense that if a single man from California was out in New York for a few months, he might take that opportunity to find a wife.

Luckily for him, his odds were good because this ad was posted during the Civil War. Since all the men in the East were off at war and dying, a woman might well be tempted to try her luck out West. Callous, but true. In any event, there were "mail-order brides" from East to West (though not in the literal sense of the phrase!); I don't see many ads like this, but there were plenty of efforts to bring women out to California, Oregon, and Washington. Most people have heard of this trend amongst Chinese immigrants, but it was true among white, native-born Americans as well.

In any event, the next two weeks are going to be pretty crazy for me, to say the least. So I will try to continue updating four days a week as I have been - but entries may be a bit shorter and lack the usual vim, vigor, and belly-clutching hilarity that you're used to (or whatever). However, I'll do the best I can!

Having trouble reading the ads? Click one to enlarge!

©2009 Pam Epstein

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