1869: Draw Up An Advertisement

Oh my. Here we are in 2007, thinking we’re all so clever using the internet and newspaper classified ads to find dates and mates, but we’re not. I stumble across a quote from 1869 (yes, 1869!) suggesting that men having trouble finding a wife might want to take out an ad in newspapers. Widely circulated newspapers. Lots of them.

The book? The Science of a New Life, by John Cowan. Here’s an excerpt:

Do not regard it as absurd and wrong if I advise you to do precisely as a farmer would, who, desiring to purchase a farm, and having examined all within his country that are for sale, and finding none that will suit him–he advertises….The world, in its progressive, onward march, with its thorough intermixture of race and quality, offers a broader and wider field for the selection of a rightly constituted mate, than does the narrow field of a village or city ward, and the people of this wide-world area can in no better way be reached than through the advertising columns of the newspaper.

You draw up an advertisement, stating in as few words as possible your idiosyncrasies, and inviting replies from only those who imagine they approach your standard character. You insert it in one or more papers of large circulation, and it is read by thousands of marriageable women, and among them, it is possible, the one who would make you an unapproachable mate, and who, of course, could not possibly have ever heard of you other than in this way. A correspondence is commenced with a score of more of those having an appearance of suiting; a phrenological analysis of the character of each is requested by you [there’s an earlier section of the book that suggests this as an important step in the courtship process; I will spare you the details], and which, being received, is compared and returned; presently the right one is discovered, and an engagement follows.

Miss Abigail again: The author goes on to discuss the pros and cons of this sort of thing. Pros include “it allows an immensely wide field for a right selection” and something about the “Law of Choice… in writing unfolding each other’s characteristic traits; or, what is more preferable, more desirable…” and again he repeats the benefits of that phrenological chart. Cons: “Characters of impure formation … probably have adopted this way of securing a victim to their lustful natures.” Hmm… he seems to blame women for that one. Let’s skip ahead. He sums up his theory about the benefits of advertising yourself in the paper this way:

It needs no argument to show that there is something radically wrong in the present mode of mate-choosing. The every-day records of family quarrels, scandals, separations and divorces, too sadly prove the fact that the present method of forming matrimonial alliances must in some measure be changed, if a happy and enjoyable married existance is desired.