An article appeared in The World of New York, New York on May 28, 1893, titled COURTING IN THE PUBLIC PARKS. This newspaper article explains in detail why courting, in public, can be so offensive to the American Victorians, and why “The Beats of Young Policemen Are the Best Places in Which to Do Your Wooing.”

First, I need to define “Love-making / lovemaking / making love” in the Victorian-era was equivalent to courting, wooing, and falling in love. I wrote a post about how common this phrase was in the late 19th century, and how G-Rated, too!

The definition of “Lover“, 19th century-style, means those who are courting, falling in love, and care for one another. Also G-Rated.

lover, noun

1 a One who loves another, especially one who is involved in a romantic . . . relationship with another

..b lovers A couple who are in love with each other

2  One who is fond of or devoted to something: a lover of fine food

[lover. (n.d.) American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition. (2011). Retrieved November 14 2016 from http://www.thefreedictionary.com/lover]

I provide a transcribed copy of this article from The World, as the scanned image, 123.5 years old, is quite difficult to read in most places. The transcript, precisely as printed in 1893 (with era-appropriate spellings and punctuation [sic]) follows.

Skating in Central Park, 1890's, Image: courtesy of Pinterest

Skating in Central Park, 1890’s, Image: Pinterest

COURTING IN THE PUBLIC PARKS

Baltimore Officials Stop All Love-Making, but It Is Different in New York.


YOU MAY PUT YOUR ARM AROUND YOUR GIRL’S WAIST PROVIDING SHE DOES NOT OBJECT.


More Care Must Be Exercised, Though, in the Manner the Young Lady Rests Her Head on her Escort’s Shoulder–The Park Commissioners Leave the Matter to the Direction of the Central Park Police–The Beats of Young Policemen Are the Best Places in Which to Do Your Wooing.

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Down in Maryland, that beautiful State of romance and love-making, an edict has gone forth against courting in the public parks. A despatch to The World a few days ago told how Gen. John S. Berry, the Secretary of the Park Board of Baltimore, had declared that the public parks were not established for courting-places or as resorts for the making of matrimonial alliances, and that love-making in them will not be permitted. The General says that in Baltimore billing and cooing comes under the head of improper conduct. A man and woman may sit on a park bench together chatting as long as they please, but the man must not put his arm around the woman’s waist nor the woman lay her head upon the man’s shoulders.

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Of course such a decision, coming from the sunny South, where Cupid is generally supposed to have  royal welcome, has caused considerable comment among the thousands of young people who read the despatch in The World. Courting has been carried on in Central Park for many years without police opposition save in a general way, where a couple made themselves objectionable. And now is this halcyon state of things to be changed? Will New York follow the example of Baltimore? Will Cupid be banished from Central Park? A fear that something of the sort might be in contemplation must have dictated the following communication which was received yesterday by the Park Commissioners. It is from a  young man who jocundly signs himself “A Happy Bridegroom.”

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A Letter of Protest.

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“My Dear Mr. Commissioner: From a despatch in the New York World dated Baltimore, May 21, I learn that some old fogy of an official of the Park Board of that city has declared that there must be no more courting done in the parks of that city. I think this is an outrage, and every young unmarried, and married, too–for many married people continue their courtship–man and woman should protest together against such an unjust regulation.

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“I write this to ascertain just what your views are on the matter, and whether you, as a gentleman who, no doubt, has done courting yourself, would sanction any such a ridiculous order as your Park Board friend in Baltimore has just put himself on record as doing.

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“Now, I am a young man who has spent some of the happiest moments of my life courting in our beautiful Central Park, where love nooks abound. I courted my wife to be in this self-same park last summer, and if any one can find a more beautiful spot on earth for courting I would like to know it. Thousands of young New Yorkers go to Central Park to do their courting in pleasant weather, because it is so much nicer than a stuffy parlor. Nature is at its best at the park at this season, and the fragrance of flowers and sweet-smelling shrubbery and the tropical tint to everything about helps Cupid along immensely. Many a bashful young man has been made brave by his surroundings and popped the question in Central Park on a beautiful evening. Many a young woman who wanted to marry a man has reason to bless Central Park for the delicious surroundings and even a moderately pretty girl would make any man want to marry.

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“Now, I have been informed that the Commissioners of the New York parks intend passing new regulations concerning courting in the parks.

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“Don’t do it, Mr. Commissioner. Don’t do it unless you want to ruin the happiness of thousands of young men who have sweethearts and do their courting in Central Park in a strictly proper manner. I certainly can’t see any harm in putting an arm around your sweetheart’s waist or the woman laying her head on her lover’s shoulder, but yet the crusty old Secretary of the Baltimore Park Board says that comes under the head of improper conduct, and must not be done in the parks of that city.

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“Now, Mr. Commissioner, will you kindly answer as to what really constitutes an offense in our parks as far as courting is concerned? When I have visited Central Park with my best girl I was never spoken to, not even once, by a policeman, and I did put my arm around my best girl, and well, yes, she did lay her head on my shoulder, but then I never saw a policeman around very much anyway. You may address me at P. O. Box 1,009.

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“A HAPPY BRIDEGROOM.”

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The Law from a Park Commissioner.

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But the Park Commissioners declare that they have no intention of changing the existing order of things. They purpose making no new rules. The matter of courting in the parks is left by them entirely to the discretion of the police. Nay, most of the Commissioners seem to have a sneaking regard for the young people and a sympathy with their desires.

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One of the Park Commissioners who talked freely on the subject requested his name not be used. He is a married man.

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“Now this subject of  courting came up the other day during the parade of the park police in Central Park,” said he. “The Commissioners all agreed that they saw no objection to a man putting his arm around a woman’s waist while seated on a park bench, so long as there was nothing improper attempted. Putting an arm around a woman’s waist we do not consider improper enough to to cause an arrest. Why, that is done in all our public conveyances, our elevated trains, street-cars, ferry-boats and bridge cars. Does any one interfere? Not at all. They all rather like that sort of thing in this part of the country. A different spirit prevails among New Yorkers than in any other city in the United States. People here mind their own business and if they see a couple doing a little act of courting in a proper manner, they smile and say ‘that’s right, young people, enjoy yourselves while you are young.’ Of course, there is a boisterous element who do everything in an objectionable manner and they are promptly suppressed at all times. We have had a few complaints about objectionable courting, but in all cases the lady objected to the method used, or at least, the complaints thought from appearances she did. But the chances are that if an arrest had been made the young lady would say that she had no objection at all to the method of courting pursued by her escort, or, in fact, she rather liked it.

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Allowed in “L” Trains.

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“If you board an “L” train, for example, any night after hours, you will find in very car couples in loving positions. The young lady not only lays her head on her companion’s shoulder, but he generally has both arms around her waist. Col. Hain as no book of instructions for his guards to prevent courting in “L” trains, and why should the Park Board prevent match-making in our beautiful parks? Undoubtedly thousands of New Yorkers have become engaged in this lovely park, and to give out instructions to our officers to prevent every young man putting his arm around his wife’s or his sweetheart’s waist would not be in keeping with the spirit of freedom found everywhere in this great metropolis. Of course, the young lady must be careful as to how she places her head on a man’s shoulder and not make herself an object of ridicule or disgust, for then it would not be in keeping with the spirit of order that is maintained in our parks. Now, let me say that the young people of New York who visit our parks can do all the courting–and of course this includes the middle-aged and the aged as well–they desire, if they behave themselves. The Baltimore Park Board can make as many rules and establish as many precedents as they see fit, but they don’t go in New York. I always thought they were very liberal with the young people in courting matters, and especially so in the capital of Maryland, and this edict is certainly rather hard on the young people. I don’t think it will be strictly enforced. Do you?”

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The sergeant in charge at the police station in the Arsenal confirmed the statement that the Park Commissioners have left the matter of courting in the parks entirely to the discretion of the individual police officials. The World reporter consequently pursued his investigation in this quarter.

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That there is considerable difference of opinion among the park policemen as to what really constitutes courting any one who has courted in Central Park can testify to. Some of the gray uniformed peace preservers are very liberal in their views, but this class is made up of young men, some married and others still single, they said.

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Lovers Need Not Fear Jupiter Jones.

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At the Mall yesterday was stationed a very fine specimen of a model park policeman. His name, he said, was Jones. One of his brother policemen called him “Jupiter,” so among his own kind, it is fair to presume, he is known as “Jupiter” Jones.

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Within twenty feet of where Mr. Jones stood was a young cast side couple seated on a park bench–those iron-bottomed kind that are so pleasant to drop into. The young man had one arm around his young companion’s waist, and his free hand was clasped in the girl’s two hands.

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“Now, do you consider that as improper courting?” Mr. Jupiter Jones was asked.

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“No, siree. That ain’t improper courting at all. The young man isn’t doing anything wrong by having his arm around that young woman’s waist so long as she don’t object. Everybody does that up here, you know. Now, I read The World, and saw what that Baltimore official says about courting, but those ideas don’t go in this town at all.”

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“Well, now, supposing the young woman over there lets her head rest on the young man’s shoulder?”

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“Would I stop that? Well, now, that depends on how she let it rest. If it was just a restful sort of a rest without too much billing and cooing”–

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A Hug Once in a While Is All Right.

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“Do you object to billing and cooing?”

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“By billing and cooing I mean, well, too much hugging. I don’t mind if they hug once in a while when my back is turned, but I don’t like to see too much of it, and neither do the passersby. It isn’t just exactly a sincere, you know, kind of courting to be hugging all the time. I can tell the right kind of courting from the wrong from long practice here in the park. You see, the man who is courting his girl honestly will consult her wishes a little in the matter, and not annoy her before others by constantly trying to break her corset-strings. A nice, gentle pressure now and then is the proper thing, and I am told it is more effective than the boisterous and rough hug. Now, I’ve been here about ten years and have seen a great deal of this courting going on. I am thirty-eight years old, and to tell the honest truth I am rather partial to the young man and his best girl who come up here to do a little courting, for I’ve been courting myself, and–well, yes, Mrs. Jones used to come up here now and then when I was off duty. So you see, if you want to start a movement to prevent courting, like that Baltimore chap, I am the wrong man to interview to help you out. I rather believe in courting myself, and Central Park is a nice place to do it in.”

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“Ever have any one complain of couples who were over affectionate in their courting?”

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Mrs. Jones’s Aged Complaints.

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“Once, just once. An old lady and gentleman came up here last summer, and she said: ‘Mr. Officer, there is a young man’–

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” ‘A mere boy, Matilda,’ chimed in the old man.

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” ‘Yes, Mr. Officer, a mere boy, with his arm around a young girl’s waist, and he’s a hugging her right before everybody.’

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” ‘Yes, and he’s kissing her, too. I saw him, Matilda.’

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“And what did you do in a case like that, Mr. Jones?”

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“Well, I first asked the old couple where they lived when they were at home, and they said some place near Philadelphia, I forget the exact locality.  Then I asked the old man if he ever kissed or hugged a girl in his life. He said no, and Matilda said she knew he hadn’t, and I said:

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” ‘Well, you had better go back to where you came from. New York is no place for you nice old people.”

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“They went away saying they would read a paper on the terriblest city in the world before some organization in their town. All the time I had my eye on the couple they complained of, and there was nothing improper done at all.”

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“Was there any hugging and kissing?”

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“Why, he had his arm around her waist, and I believe he kissed her once when I wasn’t looking.”

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Young men and women who go to Central Park to court need not fear that Mr. Jupiter Jones will carry out any such edict as has gone forth from the Park Board officials of Baltimore.

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But there are others among the Central Park policemen who hold different views on courting than those held by Mr. Jupiter Jones. One of this class said he believed that the Baltimore officials were doing the proper thing in stopping courting in the parks. He was a man of about fifty, you would judge, and when he took off his helmet to wipe his brow it was very plain to see he was very, very bald.

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Lovers, Beware of This Policeman!

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“There is altogether too much billing and cooing going on here,’ said he. “Why, in the evening the park fairly swarms with these couples who can’t do their love-making at home. It ought to be stopped, and would, if I was President of the Park Board. This love-making ought to be done at home and not in the park, where people should come to behave themselves and not begin to hug and kiss, as most of them do–but not on my post.”

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“Would you let a man and a woman sit on a bench together if they were close together?”

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“Yes, I suppose so.”

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“If he put his arm around the young woman’s waist?”

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“No sir; I don’t allow anything of the kind. I stop that every time.”

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“Would you arrest a couple that did it?”

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“First I would tell them to stop it, and if they didn’t stop at once I’d take them to the Arsenal on a charge of disorderly conduct.”

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“Well, if the woman put her arm around the man’s waist, what would you do?”

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“Just the same thing. It don’t make any difference who owned the arm.”

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“And if a woman put her head on the man’s shoulder, what then?”

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“I never permit that in my district, either. It is an offense against good morals.”

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“But supposing the woman is with her husband and feels tired?”

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“It makes no difference whether she is with her husband or some one else’s husband, there can’t be any of that kind of courting done when I am around, and the Captain will uphold me, too, if I make an arrest.”

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Arrested a Couple Found Courting.

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“Did you ever make an arrest for courting in the park?”

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“Yes, I took in one couple who were too fresh by far. The young feller said as how the girl was his, and he could hug and kiss her as much as he liked, so long as she said she liked it, and wanted to fight for my interfering. He said as how he had a pull, and that ‘Dry Dollar’ Sullivan was his friend, and he’d get me fired off the force, but I took him in just the same, and I’m here yet. The girl was let go. She must have liked the courting, for she told the Sergeant she told her feller to do it, but the young feller was fined ten the next day for disorderly conduct.”

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“And does courting come under the head of disorderly conduct according to your views?”

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“Now, young feller, don’t you know you can make anything and everything come under the head of disorderly conduct? Everything except murder–and then you can get through on that with a squeeze if you’ve got a pull. Do you catch on?”

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This fifty-year-old park policeman has a gray beard, is bald, has little, blinking gray eyes that match the color of his uniform, and a stoop in his shoulders. He is about 5 feet 11 inches high, and is rather stout.

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Young women and men who go to the park to court these pleasant evenings or afternoons look out for him. Remember the fate of the young friend of “Dry Dollar” Sullivan, who was fined ten for just hugging and kissing his girl, who asked him to do it; that charge of disorderly conduct is very elastic in New York.


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Lovers Lane in Central Park, iconic photograph. Image: Pinterest.

Lovers Lane in Central Park, iconic photograph. Image: Pinterest.

Central Park 1894. Image: Pinterest.

Central Park 1894. Image: Pinterest.

Victorian Dancing Etiquette Victorians Flirting…In The Personals? Definition of Love Making was Rated G in the 19th Century A Proper Victorian Courtship Matrimonial Offer–Latest New York Style (1851) (on Sweet Americana Sweethearts) The Proper (and safe) Way to Terminate a Victorian American Courtship America’s Victorian Era Love Letters Courtship, Old West Style Victorian American Romance and Breach of Promise Brown’s Matrimonial Method (on Romancing The Genres) The Spinster Book: 1901 (And Men Are Like Cats…) BOOK REVIEW: It Happened At The Fair

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