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Look at the Personals

Friday, April 30, 2010

This is very much your stereotypical missed connection ad, but there is something about it I rather like.  The trouble of writing about history is that you're so limited by what evidence you can find.  This is a great example of a little piece of evidence that goes a very long way.

If the lady who got into a Twenty-third street stage yesterday afternoon about 2 or 3 o'clock, in the neighborhood of Seventh or Eighth streets and Broadway, and who got out just before coming to Seventh avenue and Twenty-third street, would desire the make the acquaintance of the gentleman who requested her to look at the Personals in to-day's Herald, it would be a mutual pleasure, and she is requested to address Alexander, Herald office, appointing an interview for Thursday.

In my dissertation, for example, I wanted to argue that people read personal ads for entertainment, and that everyone knew what they were and how they were used.  And of course there's a lot of anecdotal evidence and reasonable assumptions one can make: journalists talked about personals a fair amount, and of course you don't continue publishing a column for years and years and years that no one is reading.  But it's two different things to say that people were aware of something and to say it's part of a city culture.

This ad is useful because this guy tells this girl to look at the personals, which suggests that he just assumed she would know what he meant and why he wanted her to read them.  Whether or not she actually did is irrelevant.  What's important is that Alexander believes that everybody and their mothers are so familiar with the personals that he can tell a woman to check them out and she's not going to stare at him all, "WTF?" and not have any idea why he's indicating this random column in the newspaper. 

So that's awesome, because it's one thing when a journalist writes a little story about personals and says, "everyone reads them," because who knows if that's true?  But when actual people who use the ads imply that everyone reads them, then you have proof that it is.  And of course, I see ads like this often, so it's not like it's just this one that I'm basing my conclusions off of.  If I quote a journalist, you can legitimately ask, well, how do you know he's right?  When I point to something like this, it's (to a degree) hard evidence.

Anyway, thanks guys, for proving me right!!

Having trouble reading the ads? Click one to enlarge!

©2010 Pam Epstein


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