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Desires a WIFE

Friday, February 25, 2011

Hey, look, it's been a week and a half since I've posted!  How did that happen?  Man time flies.

Anyway, ran across these two ads in a newspaper I don't use much, under the "To It May Concern" heading.  First time I've ever seen matrimonials in anything other than their own dedicated column or in the personals.  For what that's worth.  Interestingly, the paper's owner thought of his paper as a cut above, morally speaking, the rest of the papers of the day and it's funny to see the ads that everyone was condemning as immoral and wicked appearing in his paper.  I guess revenue beats morals every time!  But maybe that's the reason these two guys chose to advertise here rather than the more common venue.

A young man of unquestionable character wishes to get a WIFE, and not finding any one of his acquaintance desirable, he takes this method.  She must be young, pretty, accomplished, and not over 25 years of age.  Address Harry W., Broadway Post Office, N.Y.
Matrimonial. - A Gentleman of unquestionable character, thirty-two years of age and doing a fine mechanical business a few miles from New Haven, the care of which has kept him from society, desires a WIFE, and wishes to correspond to any lady not over twenty five who thinks favorably of his situation.  References will be given and required.  Address Joshua, Box 2,014, New-Haven, Conn.
How cute is it that the ads capitalize "WIFE"?  I generally tend to ignore all-caps when I'm transcribing ads because it's just a convention of the paper - many papers always capitalize the first line and the names of the advertisers.  I don't think the advertisers do that themselves, or if they do, it's because it's the standard form.  But in a case like this, the capitalization is quite deliberate.  On the one hand, it seems weird that the paper would take the liberty of doing this, but on the other, how likely is it that two different men would do this on the same day? 

I just think it's pretty funny.  Like, you need to clarify that it's a wife you want.  Not a mistress.  Not a housekeeper.  A WIFE, dammit.  Just in case there was any confusion!  Ha!  But both these guys seem nice.  I like them.  No mention of money - other than Joshua saying his business is successful, but there's nothing wrong with that.  More importantly, no insistence that the lady have money.  It always bugs me when a 32 year old man says he doesn't want to marry anyone older than 25...but to be fair, women were believed to be "too old" to have kids once they hit their late twenties so if he wanted children, he might be taking that into consideration.  And age gaps were definitely more common at this time.  So I will withhold judgment.  (I'm not saying I am opposed to any significant age gap in couples per se, it's just when it's a requirement that a wife be much younger that I get annoyed.)

I wonder what Joshua's "mechanical" business was.  I know that in the 19th century a career in "mechanics" meant something slightly different than it does today...I think it was more like engineering is today.  But if that was true, then what was his shop?  Maybe he sold mechanical goods - plows and, um, I can't think of any other widely-used, noncommercial, mechanical devices in the 19th century just now.  I should really know this given several of my most recent lectures in my classes have been about technological inventions of the industrial era (which this was) that would have been sold to everyday people.

Tangent!  Speaking of my classes, I've got some lectures to work on.  Over and out!

©2011 Pam Epstein


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