Victorians Flirting… In the Personals?

Victorians Flirting… In the Personals?

FLIRTING IN VERY POOR TASTE

In the broadest sense of the term, flirtations were considered ill-mannered in Victorian America. Well-bred young ladies wouldn’t dream of flirting as their quality shone through demure behavior, gracious reception of callers, and calm dispositions.

Books, magazine articles, and newspaper columns regarding decorum (published in the era) warned against flirting:

Flirting on a Steamboat

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The practice of some young girls just entering into womanhood, of flirting with any young man they may chance to meet, either in a railway car or on a steamboat, indicates low-breeding in the extreme. If, however, the journey is long, and especially if it be on a steamboat, a certain sociability may be allowed, and a married lady or a lady of middle age may use her privileges to make the journey an enjoyable one, for fellow-passengers should always be sociable to one another. (1882)

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~ Manners and Morals of Victorian America

These pervasive attitudes and social expectations about proper behavior may well have brought about the phenomena of carrying on a flirtation in the personals column of the newspapers. The following section are newspaper clippings wherein ladies ask to meet a gentleman they encountered on the street, reconnect with an old friend they happened to see on a streetcar, or using only initials, invite another for a clandestine meeting. Due to the secretive nature, Mother (and/or Maiden Auntie) couldn’t see the inappropriate behavior, thus couldn’t have a fit.

FLIRTATION IN THE PERSONALS

It shouldn’t be surprising that flirtatious personals appear in large city newspapers, and not in small locales. I searched. Even moderate-sized cities didn’t dally with this trend. Note that these flirtations, connections, and ‘private’ correspondence are found in newspapers from Cincinnati, San Francisco, Baltimore, and St. Louis. Cities that size could easily present circumstances in which a couple could carry on a masked correspondence on the personals page without Mother learning of it, and a young man may genuinely not know how to locate a young woman who caught his eye. After all, he couldn’t walk into the corner grocer, describe the girl, and learn who she might be.

WANTED! The Cincinnati Enquirer of Cincinnati, Ohio on November 16, 1871.

WANTED! The Cincinnati Enquirer of Cincinnati, Ohio on November 16, 1871.

WANTED: Lady on Streetcar. The Cincinnati Enquirer of Cincinnati, Ohio, on February 13, 1872.

WANTED: Lady on Streetcar. The Cincinnati Enquirer of Cincinnati, Ohio, on February 13, 1872.

Recognize old friend? San Francisco Chronicle of San Francisco, California, on September 16, 1872.

Recognize old friend? San Francisco Chronicle of San Francisco, California, on September 16, 1872.

WILL THE LADY “accompanied by a Little Boy,” allow the Gentleman whom she passed on the corner of Lexington and Eutaw streets an interview. Address GEO.S. Sun office.

(transcribed from the original, as the scanned image is difficult to read)

~ The Baltimore Sun of Baltimore, Maryland on January 6, 1875.

PERSONAL–WANTED–The young lady who stopped on Eighth street and read a letter, and then entered the house on the corner of Eighth and W., to oblige the party noticing her by addressing CHARLEY BELL, this office.

(transcribed from the original, as the scanned image is difficult to read)

~ The Cincinnati Enquirer of Cincinnati, Ohio, on January 8, 1875.

The Cincinnati Enquirer of Cincinnati, Ohio, on February 1, 1875.

The Cincinnati Enquirer of Cincinnati, Ohio, on February 1, 1875.

St. Louis Post-Dispatch of St. Louis, Missouri, on November 14, 1885.

St. Louis Post-Dispatch of St. Louis, Missouri, on November 14, 1885.

PRIVATE COMMUNICATION IN PERSONALS

PERSONAL–WANTED–J.B. and C.W., who advertised Monday for me to address them, to leave a letter at this office this morning stating particulars to receive attention. F.L.S. Or address F.L.S., Box 20, Wilmington, O.

(transcribed from the original, as the scanned image is difficult to read)

~ The Cincinnati Enquirer of Cincinnati, Ohio, on January 8, 1875

The Cincinnati Enquirer on January 8, 1875.

The Cincinnati Enquirer on January 8, 1875.

The Cincinnati Enquirer of Cincinnati, Ohio on February 1, 1875.

The Cincinnati Enquirer of Cincinnati, Ohio on February 1, 1875.

Flirtation in Personals using code names. St. Louis Post-Dispatch on April 24, 1883.

Flirtation in Personals using code names. St. Louis Post-Dispatch on April 24, 1883.

Flirtations! St. Louis Post-Dispatch of St. Louis, Missouri on November 14, 1885.

Flirtations! St. Louis Post-Dispatch of St. Louis, Missouri on November 14, 1885.

Private communication. The San Francisco Chronicle of San Francisco, California, on March 9, 1890.

Private communication. The San Francisco Chronicle of San Francisco, California, on March 9, 1890.

San Francisco Chronicle of San Francisco, California on March 9, 1890.

San Francisco Chronicle of San Francisco, California on March 9, 1890.

WANTED: ACQUAINTANCE

The Cincinnati Enquirer of Cincinnati, Ohio on February 1, 1875.

The Cincinnati Enquirer of Cincinnati, Ohio on February 1, 1875.

Copyright © 2016 Kristin Holt LC

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