Object, Matrimony: The Risky Business Of Mail-order Matchmaking On The Western Frontier by Chris Enss, has taken a spot on the new acquisitions bookshelf in Genealogy and Local History. It is a fascinating look at mail-order brides in the American west.
The term “mail-order” was a bit of a misnomer, as men did not order brides from a catalog along with clothing and household items. Rather, courtship often took place through a series of letters exchanged between men and women looking for romantic or practical relationships. Full of facts and amusing anecdotes, Object, Matrimonyis an easy and fascinating read.
A large number of these brides and grooms to-be “met” via personal ads in the newspapers. A specialty paper which had its beginnings in London became wildly popular in the United States as well. “The Matrimonial News And Special Advertiser” was billed as “a weekly journal devoted to the promotion of marriage and conjugal felicity.”
The Newberry has a copy of the February 10, 1877 Chicago edition of the paper, which celebrates the paper’s eighth year of existence. Here are a few excerpts from that issue, ranging from the serious to the amusing:
“Ladies - I am a 38 years old, 5 ft, 9 1/2 in. high, weigh 195 lbs, brown hair and eyes, would be pleased to correspond with a limited number of respectable ladies. Object matrimony. Have good moral and business standing, and to right party will furnish unexceptional references. Will 835, 880. 966, 988 and others please reply. Address Robert Taylor, Box 825, Hannibal. Mo.”
“A Blonde, 20 years of age, has an extensive bank account, but no beauty, would like to correspond with some fine-looking gentlemen, with a view to matrimony. Is willing to exchange gold for a husband. Letters containing photos noticed particularly. Address, Miss Golden, Box 319, care editor.”
“Three Young Men - Three young men, in Prescott, Arizona. Physician, age 30, merchant age 24 and wealthy mine-owner aged 33, all having plenty of filthy lucre, would like young lady correspondents for fun or matrimony. Photos exchanged, if requested. Send true name, we mean business. Merchant, W.T. Rowe; physician, Dr. Warren E. Day; mine owner, Jay G. Kelley. Prescott, Yavapai Co., Arizona Ter.”
It appears that at least one of these young men married. According to the “Arizona Marriage Collection, 1864-1982” (Ancestry.com), Warren E. Day of Prescott, Yavapai Co., Arizona married Mary M. Gilbert of Pennsylvania on March 1, 1880.
Enss, Chris. Object, Matrimony: The Risky Business Of Mail-order Matchmaking On The Western Frontier. Guilford, Conn. TwoDot, 2013. Call No. HQ802 .E5753 2013.
“The Matrimonial News And Special Advertiser.” Chicago, Ill. C. G. Horton Co. . 1877:Feb.10.; Call No. Case folio HQ801.815 .M38.
“Arizona Marriage Collection, 1864-1982,” database, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com accessed 19 November 2013), entry for marriage of Warren E. Day and Mary M. Gilbert (1880).; citing “Marriage Book, vol. A, p. 108”; County Courthouse, Yavapai.