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Thursday, August 19, 2010

I just found these two ads today and they made me very, very sad.  Read on, dear readers:

An American gentleman, age 33, of wealth and education, a lawyer by profession, connected with extensive manufacturing interests, also building important trusts in a fiduciary capacity, possessing but limited time to mingle in general society, seeks the acquaintance, with a view to matrimony, of a high minded, middle aged, Christian-hearted lady (must be similarly situated regarding wealth as writer); full and candid explanations given as to this manner of proceeding; references of the very highest order concerning character, standing, past life, &c., and every possible assurance of good faith and sincerity; correspondence solicited only from a lady as above; the same treated honorably, in strict confidence, and returned; no communications received from trifling, irresponsible, or adventurous persons.  Address, for ten days, Truth, box 23 1/2 Herald office.

An American gentleman of large wealth, educated, refined, in the full possession of health, having now but limited time to mingle in general society, seeks the acquaintance in this most unconventional manner, with a view to matrimony, of a high minded, Christian-hearted, wealthy lady of mature years; to avoid triflers, and as a bar to all mercenary motives, thorough and positive statements as to wealth and income must be given; no letters noticed unless containing full particulars, also unexceptionable references, any true lady, as above, need feel no diffidence in replying, as her confidence will be held sacred and all correspondence immediately returned when requested; the limited scope of a newspaper advertisement admits of but a faint outline of the writer's purpose, his views and honorable intentions, but full and minute details will be given in reply; no communications received from irresponsible or adventurous persons.  Address, for ten days, Truth, box 180 Herald office, New York.

Okay, this is depressing for two reasons.  The first I think you can tell just from reading the second ad - the guy got lots of letters from people trying to jerk him around.  The second thing is that these ads were printed over a full year apart!

Waah!  I'm so sad for him!! 

I suppose it's possible that this guy is some scam artist who is using the matrimonials to rip off rich women, given how demanding he is about knowing their exact income.  But there's something really aggrieved in the second ad that suggests to me he is sincere.  I mean, that's a whole lot of money he just spent to prevent adventurers from responding to his ad, and if he is himself an adventurer, I doubt it would be worth it.  So I'm going to take it on faith that he's an honest guy, who is so busy with all these business matters he refers to that he has no time to go out and meet people, and he's trying in the only way he can think of to meet a wife...and look what happens!  People write him to play tricks, or women write who only want to marry him for his money.  Of course, he says he only wants to marry a wealthy woman, but I suppose I can at least get behind that in the sense that if you're going to marry someone you want to know for sure that they're doing it because they love you, not because they're super poor and need you to support them.  Man, my pronoun usage sucks today.

Seriously, though, I feel sorry for "Truth."  He's obviously turning to the ad because he's desperate, since he is fully aware of how unconventional and strange it is, but he's got some kind of extenuating circumstance that is compelling him.  He goes out of his way to promise assurances of his own good faith, character, respectability, etc. and promises that he'll explain in minute detail why he has to do this.  And people take advantage of his attempts at transparency.  People are mean!! 

I wonder what kind of letters he got?  Teenage girls composing fake replies with their friends for fun and giggling over the ludicrous things they write?  Gold-diggers who want a rich husband?  It's odd because I would think, if the first ad resulted in such awful responses that he felt he had to do that much to prevent more of the same, that he would just not write an ad again!  If it was such a failure the first time, right?  I suppose it's possible that he got enough nice, normal women, even though it didn't work out with any of them, that he thought it worth trying again, but given how obviously bitter he was in the second ad, it seems like a pretty risky venture.

I don't think he printed an ad again the following year; I wasn't able to find one, at any rate.  I guess it means he either found someone and lived happily ever after, or he got so much junk mail that he gave up in disgust.  I hope the former.  He seems so lonely.

©2010 Pam Epstein


Unknown August 20, 2010 at 4:26 PM  

This is exactly like Craigslist! Tons of spam, messages from losers that probably include inappropriate images of full frontal nudity (sans face), posters that have incredibly high standards who seem oblivious to the fact that if they're posting a personal ad like that, maybe they should be less demanding.....

I found this blog through the NY Times link and I love it! It's so interesting to see the parallels with today's online dating world (and dating in general)!

Pam August 20, 2010 at 4:58 PM  

Thanks Susan! I definitely see a lot of craigslist-esque ads. It's fascinating. Glad you like the blog!

Anonymous August 24, 2010 at 11:47 AM  

I wonder what he means by a woman of mature years - he's only 34 by this point if he was 33 in the first one. I know that's old maid status by historical standards, but any sense of what it meant?

Pam August 24, 2010 at 12:16 PM  

Yeah, I noticed the "mature years" comment too. Today I think of that as being, you know, 50+. But I think in his day mature years could mean 30s. If women were considered old enough to get married at 16, then 34 would have been mature indeed!

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