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From the sunny South

Saturday, June 19, 2010

I'm used to seeing "stranger in the city" type ads from women, but not so often from men. But here's one that's particularly interesting:

Matrimonial. - A gentleman, a native of the sunny South, who has been compelled to emigrate to the North, being an entire stranger here, desires to form the acquaintance of a lady, either a maiden or widow, with the intention of forming a matrimonial alliance. No interview desired unless both parties are satisfied of the honest intentions of each other. Address, with carte de visite, James Hanna, station B Post office.
Now I find this ad noteworthy for a few reasons. First of all, it was printed right in the midst of the Civil War, which explains a lot about why he was "compelled to emigrate to the North." And second, the fact that his first order of business once getting there, apparently, was to find a wife. It actually reminds me a lot of this ad, which is one of my old favorites. But I'm not sure how well this would have gone over. As I pointed out not long ago, there was a pretty healthy sense of patriotism in the North (not universal, but pretty strong), and a guy who is all, "well, I was forced to leave the South," and describes it in such a positive fashion ("sunny") might not get the approbation of pro-Union ladies. He ought to have been like, "I left the South because it's evil and traitorous!" Then all the women would have been flocking to him for being brave enough to abandon his place of birth in order to side with the Northern cause. You know? This makes him sound really reluctant to have left. And, speaking of, why was he compelled to leave, anyway? Openly proclaiming fealty to the United States? Talking about freeing the slaves? Or maybe he committed some terrible crime and had to run away to avoid prosecution? Hmmm.

And it is a little odd that the first thing he wants to do is find a wife. With women it was generally urgent because they desperately needed money. I can only assume that (like "Merchant" in the ad I linked to above) James Hanna lost all his money - if he ever had any - when he was "compelled" to emigrate North. Or, just lost all his money because he was stupid enough to not get all his capital out of the South when the war started. In any event, my assumption is that he also wanted to marry for money, but it's interesting that he doesn't say anything about financial status at all. Maybe he just hoped he'd get a lot of answers from various different women and could choose the one who had the most to offer.

Or, to be fair, it could be that he was perfectly fine financially, but just terribly lonely. What better way to get settled in a new milieu than to settle down with a new spouse? Get to meet her family and friends, buy a home, have some kids, suddenly you're not a stranger anymore. I suppose that's a possibility. And given how many single women there were by this point in the war, he could have gotten a lot of answers. Let's think positive and assume that this is the reason, and that he's not motivated by money at all. I'm feeling optimistic today.

Having trouble reading the ads? Click one to enlarge!

©2010 Pam Epstein

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