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A nice interlude

Monday, October 26, 2009

New blog template! Much, much nicer than the old one, I think.

Moving on. I like to make fun of these 19th century advertisers, but sometimes it's pleasant to see the ones that I think are for real and are people I'd actually like.

Take this guy, for example:

A single gentleman, forty-three years of age, on a salary of $2,000 a year, with some little means, desires to marry a young lady or widow of suitable age and respectability either in city or country, who is willing to live a moderate domestic life. Means not essential nor objectionable, happiness being the end sought; intelligence, good sense and a good heart highly important. Anyone mutually and sincerely inclined may address E.D., Broadway Post office, New York city, enclosing, if disposed, carte de visite, with the assurance that such communication will be regarded as sacredly confidential. References exchanged.
For some context, $2,000 was in fact a decent amount of money for the time. That's worth around $45-50,000 today, if I did my calculations correctly (I am not good at math, please don't yell at me if I'm wrong). So, not wealthy by any stretch, but not poor either. In fact, the average income at the time was less than $1,000 per year, so this guy was doing fairly well by comparison.

One thing that I find so fascinating about this era is that so many men were so upfront about their income. It's not the sort of thing that people talk about so openly today. And of course on the other side were women who admitted up front that they were marrying for money. But in a way I appreciate the pragmatism behind it. Men knew women had to find a spouse who could support them financially, and so they understood the necessity of disclosing their income. Most men weren't this specific, but more often than not at least mentioned their relative wealth.

It seems really sad in a way, that both sides have money at the forefront of their ads. But what I think is so interesting about it is that even knowing that, people still hoped for love and romance. So many critics of these ads were horrified by the frequent mention of wealth, but it seems to me that the advertisers had a better outlook. It didn't have to be either/or: that either you marry for money or for love. These people wanted the latter, but accepted the reality of the former.

I like it.

Having trouble reading the ads? Click one to enlarge!

©2009 Pam Epstein


Breuk October 26, 2009 at 2:42 PM  

Testing Testing...much better :)

drwende October 26, 2009 at 6:56 PM  

The same mix of pragmatism and romanticism was found in attempts to marry through one's normal social circle. It's just that one's parents most likely already knew what that portly John Gilded had $1500 a year while handsome Dan Drover would have to make his fortune in the West before he could consider marrying a girl without money of her own.

Like your new template VERY much!

Pam October 26, 2009 at 7:21 PM  

Thanks, Breuk

drwende, no doubt! Of course underneath everything, money was key. But the point is that it wasn't openly talked about the way it was in these ads. That's what horrified people - having to face reality instead of pretending that no, no, it really was all about love!

Pam October 26, 2009 at 7:22 PM  

Also, glad you like the new template! I hated the old one - just had trouble finding one I liked that was clean and simple.

Anonymous December 27, 2013 at 5:30 PM  

We have to remember there was a time when marrying well and growing to care for (maybe even love) was the norm. A woman could only hope to find a man who could provide for her financially as well as emotionally. So they would go with the wishes of her father and pray for affection to come with time. Or, if no family to provide for her, go with someone who promises some measure of comfort and, again, pray for affection as they get to know one another.

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