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The Annuals

Friday, November 6, 2009

This is not actually a matrimonial, but I thought I'd throw it in today as it is quite entertaining. And, it's going to teach you how to get married - and whom not to marry. Given its length and relative legibility, I'm not going to transcribe the whole thing. Remember, click on it and a larger file will open...

Hee hee hee. These "Annuals" are like a Wal-Mart. Everything you want can be found inside. Now for anyone who doesn't know, Phrenology and Physiognomy are (or rather were) "sciences" that were quite popular in the mid-nineteenth and early twentieth-centuries that now no one takes seriously. Physiognomy was the "science" of figuring out a person's character by studying their appearance and assigning meaning to certain traits (a woman with thin lips would display masculine behavior, for example). Phrenology, a subset of Physiognomy, would determine character based on the shape of the skull. If you think I'm kidding, check out this "chart" from about the same time as this ad. If you look at it closely you'll see that each area of the brain has a specific purpose, and if that part of the skull is larger, I presume, than that particular trait is more enhanced.

But! The Annuals don't just handy information to feel the bumps on your skull and figure out what kind of person you are! No indeed; they will also help you stop stuttering, how to diet and "regulate the conditions of the body." They'll give you a 100 year almanac and wow, I wish I could see how accurate that turned out to be.

More pertinent to my work, they'll also teach you the very necessary lessons of "The Two Paths of Womanhood," (without reading the Annuals myself, I would hazard a guess that Path One is marriage, motherhood, and virtue; while Path Two is Sin, Avarice, Greed, and Prostitution). The Annuals will give you information on "Matrimonial Mistakes; Where to Find a Wife; Signs of Character in the Eyes."

And finally, more important than anything else, the Annuals asks the very good question: "WOULD YOU MARRY YOUR COUSIN?" If you're thinking about it, "read the Annuals, and be wise."

Oh lordy. What would I do for entertainment without stuff like this (don't answer that)? Honestly, this question is a wee bit ahead of its time. People were still marrying their cousins right and left when this ad came out, and I don't mean just in Hicksville, Nowhere. Not thirty years before, the writer Edgar Allen Poe married his 13-year-old cousin at the age of 26. (Although taking Poe as an example of "typical" American life is probably not the wisest idea.) In any event, it wasn't as common, but it was still acceptable, so it's interesting to me that you're starting to see a real push against that here. Like, you actually do still need to read a book to explain to you why it's a bad idea to marry a family member.

Anyway, this was a bit off topic, but it was one of the earliest ads I found when I started this project, and it had me feeling a bit of nostalgia for the good old days when I thought this dissertation wasn't going to take me a million years...

Having trouble reading the ads? Click one to enlarge!

©2009 Pam Epstein


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