While the term “Mail-Order Bride” was significantly less-used, at least in newspapers of the day, the somewhat substitute-able “Correspondence Courtship” was far more popular in newsprint.
SIMPLE CORRESPONDENCE (1902)…
…CONSIDERED A NORMAL COURSE OF 19th CENTURY COURTSHIP
Couples in the nineteenth century (and twentieth, too) often wrote letters to one another in place of a courtship, simply because they lived too far apart to facilitate an in-person courtship. This may have happened because of an introduction by trusted parties (friends or family or perhaps a pastor) or because one or the other moved away before a courtship could run its course. Couples who lived near one another often wrote love letters in addition to standard courtship.
The Wilmington Morning Star of Wilmington, South Carolina, reported on September 12, 1871, a sad story of a young woman who planned a wedding, sincerely believing a correspondence courtship to be real when it had been a figment of her imagination (and perhaps mental illness). The article stated, “About a year ago she fancied that the reverend gent referred to had gone through a regular and formal courtship (by letter) that she had accepted him, and that the wedding day was fixed…” (italics and bold face added)
CORRESPONDENCE COURTSHIPS SOMETIMES CULMINATED IN JOYFUL MARRIAGE…(1898)
…NO MATTER THE AGE (1897)
The following is a transcription from the article printed in The Daily Review of Decatur, Illinois, on 25 August, 1897.
Rev. John R. Dailey of Lovington and Mrs. Margaret Coon of Decatur were married at the residence of the bride, 431 East Herkimer street, Tuesday morning at 10 o’clock by Rev. P. W. Humphrey in the presence of a few friends.
The marriage is unusual in some respects. The bride is 60 years old and the groom has passed his 65th year, both have married children and both are well provided for. The bride has now been led to the marriage altar three times, and three times she has been a happy bride.
Her first husband was killed while fighting to save the Union, away back in the sixties, but the young widow did not waste her life in mourning the rest of her days for the gallant husband who fell in the defense of his country. She was married again. A good many years ago the second husband died. For a number of years she has lived in her own house and has two other houses in this city which are rented and one in Pana from which she also receives rent.
The wedding yesterday was brought about through the instrumentality of kind friends who knew both parties and told the two old people about each other. the bride and the groom had not met until last Friday, but they had corresponded for a long time and pictures were exchanged. Each thought the other’s face was satisfactory at least. So Mr. Bailey came to Decatur to see the woman he has been loving by mail so long. There was no disappointment on either side, and matters were arranged quickly.
Yesterday morning the last chapter of the little romance was finished when the marriage certificate was handed to the bride by Rev. P. W. Humphrey.
The groom is a Christian preacher and lives in Lovington. he was married once before. he has two residence properties in Fairbury, and to that point the couple went for their honeymoon. They will return in a few days and reside here for the rest of their days.
…OR… NOT! (1872)
CORRESPONDENCE COURTSHIPS COULD BE A SOURCE OF HUMOR… (to those not involved?) (1888)
Note: the following is a transcription of the newspaper article, SEVEN TIMES WEDDED, as the scanned image isn’t easy on the eyes.
Rockford (ILL) Special to Chicago Herald.
Levi D. Fuller, of Courtland, De Kalb county, recently married his seventh wife, and is glad of it. this man, of remarkable matrimonial experience, who regards marriage as unqualified success, was in town to-day. The Herald correspondent learned from his own lips the story of his varied invasions into the realms of Cupid. In regard to his latest conquest, he said he had just been married at East Troy, Wis., to Emeline Loomis, and, was here on his way to his farm in Courtland.
“Yes,” he continued, “I’ve got married again, and I have settled right down to business. I came to the conclusion that it wasn’t best for man to be alone, so I went to East Troy, Wis., a few days ago and returned with wife No. 7.”
“Will you tell about them?”
“About all of ’em?” queried Mr. Fuller.
“Yes, all seven of them,” replied the reporter.
“Well, about a quarter of a century ago,” said the man of marriages reflectively, “I came to Winnebago then 20 years old. Shortly after coming here I married Jane Maxwell of Cherry Valley. She used to work for ex-Sheriff Amasa Hutchins. We lived together for a year, and then a divorce freed us. About two years after I wooed and won Alvira Clark, who lived at Rochelle. We lived with each other only six months, when death did what divorce had done before, and I again found myself wifeless. Nettie Moore was the name of wife No. 3. She lived at Harvard. Three years of married life with her was enough for me, and again my name figured on the divorce docket. By this time I began to think that marriage wasn’t exactly what it was cracked up to be, and I was about ready to steer clear of the women when I met Mrs. Elizabeth Cynthia Dow at Elgin. She told me that she was a widow and was lonesome, oh, so lonesome, and I married her more out of sympathy than anything else. We went to Wisconsin, and were joined by a Justice of the Peace at Janesville named Smith. I recollect him because he charged me $5 for the job; said it was worth it. We went back to Elgin, and two weeks after her husband came home one night.”
“What did you do when affairs to this Enoch Arden turn?” questioned the reporter, as Mr. Fuller paused in his story.
“It was about midnight when he returned, and when I heard him the house I thought it was a burglar. I arose to throw him out when he stepped nearer the bed, and the moonlight, which was shining through the window, fell upon him, and I saw a big gun in his hand. Just then Cynthia yelled out, ‘Oh, if there ain’t my John Henry come back to me.’ Then it flashed over me that the burglar was Cynthia’s husband, and I jumped out of the window. Just as I jumped he shot at me. The ball grazed my leg, but I got away and left my pants and other clothes behind me, and the next day he appeared on the streets of Elgin in my clothes. They fit him pretty well, too. Cynthia used to often remark that I resembled John Henry. I learned afterward that he was a mason and had been at work for the summer at Crystal Lake, Wis. Divorce or death wasn’t necessary in this case and in a few months following I married Mollie Bishop, the daughter of an Aurora railroader. We were engaged before my experience with Cynthia and she never knew anything of it. Mollie and I were happy for a few months, when I thought she was too fond of a brakeman and so we separated. She died some months afterward. Three weeks after I was loose I was again tied up. Lillie Ray was her name. She lived at Hampshire. We lived together six months and then Lillie went away with a handsomer man. I didn’t care very much. She was as good as most women, I guess, but she didn’t strike me right. Since then I have advertised in the papers for a wife. At one time I had an advertisement in thirteen different papers. To all of those I have received something over 1100 replies. I have corresponded with more than 350 of those who answered with a view to matrimony. I have proposed 119 times and been accepted 85 times. The highest number that I have been engaged to at one time was seven, although several times I was engaged to half a dozen. Only one girl backed out when it came to the critical point, and that was Carrie Smith, the Dubuque girl. The cards were printed and were out for the wedding, and at the last moment she flew the track. Her only reason was that she didn’t love me as she thought she ought to, she said. I didn’t care much, because there was a girl at Moline who threatened to sue me for breach of promise if I married the Dubuque girl. I never was sued for preach [sic] of promise, although one girl pinched me for $200. She lived at Harvard. I met her at Woodstock by appointment and proposed within ten minutes after meeting her. I was always too sharp to get caught by any of the others. I prefer blondes. Of the seven there was only one brunette in the bunch. My present wife is red-headed. Some of my neighbors say I married her to match my white horse, but this isn’t so. The oldest of the seven was 30 years of age, the youngest 17. The largest one weighed 209 pounds, the smallest ninety-three. With one exception the ceremony has always been performed by a Justice of the Peace. I prefer them because they talk like they mean business. One Aurora woman wanted me to elope with her. She said she would get $700 of her husband’s money and skip out if I said so, but I concluded not to. I have had two children, wife 1 and wife 3 each having one. I had at one time nearly 400 photographs of girls who were anxious to marry. They lived in all parts of the United States.”
In addition to the information furnished by Mr. Fuller himself concerning his matrimonial escapades, there are numerous other affairs. About three years ago he was stabbed at the Kenosha Division depot by a woman named Robinson, who wanted to become Mrs. Fuller. He says he believes that he has at last secured a good wife. he was determined to have the best the market afforded, and he took for his motto, “If at first you dont [sic] succeed, try, try again.” He assured the reporter that he considered his present partner worth her weight in gold. The principal points of the remarkable adventure sin correspondence, courtship, marriage and divorce of Mr. Fuller are set forth in brief by the following summary:
Replies to rdvertisements [sic]: 1100
With a view to marriage, corresponded with: 350
Number photos received: 400
Proposed, times: 119
Accepted, times: 85
Rejected, times: 34
Married, times: 7
Divorced, times: 4
Paid breach of promise damages: 1
Married by minister: 1
Married by justice, times: 6
Shot at, times: 1
Stabbed, times: 1
Blondes, wives: 6
Brunette, wife: 1
Red-headed wife: 1
Time of Game: 25 years.
So far, 1871’s the earliest case shown [the poor girl who believed her “regular and formal courtship (by letter)], though the specific term “correspondence courtship” wasn’t used.
Numerous articles from as early as 1830 cover the common use of correspondence between courting couples.
I’ll conclude with my personal favorite of the bunch. It comes from The Tennessean of Nashville, Tennessee, and was published on 1 May, 1868. Here, the term is “Epistolary Courtship”.
Note: The following is a transcription of the article’s contents as the scanned image is difficult to read. It is found in The Tennessean of Nashville, Tennessee, and was published on 1 May, 1868.
At the close of the late war, a young Confederate soldier, whose home was in Alabama, came to our city from Camp Douglas, at Chicago. Possessed of a fine personal appearance, and very fair education, he was not long in securing a clerkship in one of our wholesale stores on Main Street. Day by day he grew in faver [sic] with his employers, and about one year ago was advanced to the position of chief clerk. In the meantime he kept up a regular correspondence with his parents, and reported to them his success in his new home. one of his letters was carried to school by his sister, who read it to a young lady, who was not an entire stranger to the young man. Being of marriageable age and a romantic turn of mind, the young lady suggested to the sister of the young man the idea of putting herself in correspondence with him. They both agreed that it would be a capital joke, and the young lady wrote to him that she had learned form his sister of his happy situation in Louisville and that she would be delighted to visit his adopted home. With this letter she forwarded him her photograph.
The young man was charmed with the picture. She was not only beautiful in appearance, but her letter indicated a highly educated mide [sic] In his answer he inclosed [sic] his photograph, and a correspondence commenced, which in a few months attracted the young lady and her father to our city. the fair damsel had learned to love the man whom she had never beheld. About one week ago the father and daughter arrived, and the unknown lover met his future bride as she alighted from the cars, and kissed her as his affianced. In two days after the couple thus strangely and so romantically brought together were married, and now enjoying their honeymoon in a tour of the Eastern cities. They both seemed as happy as if there had been five years’ courtship. We might also add that the young man is now a partner in the firm, which is one of the largest in the city, and he is on the broad road to amass a fortune.
This article mentions “Breach of Promise” a few times, as have previous blog posts/articles on Mail-Order Brides and some of the disastrous outcomes. I was fascinated to learn about ladies (or gents) suing their former beloveds for Breach of Promise in the nineteenth century and how it all came about, the settlements judges awarded upon injured parties, and how this phenomenon seems to have disappeared from American culture. Please join me for a peek at this issue within the United States law of the Victorian Era.
Victorians Flirting…In The Personals? BOOK REVIEW: Buying a Bride by Marcia A. Zug Victorian American Romance and Breach of Promise Real Mail-Order Bride SUCCESS Stories First Historical Use of term “Mail-Order Bride” Is it O.K. to Use Okay in Historical Fiction? America’s Victorian Era Love Letters The Proper (and safe) Way to Terminate a Victorian American Courtship Victorian Fountain Pens (and penmanship)
Copyright © 2016 Kristin Holt, LC