Two contrasting newspaper articles: August 30, 1860 (Altoona, PA) and August 30, 1876 (Fort Scott, KS), show both the apparently high fidelity of marriage…and the lowest of regard of the institution. Both–published on August 30th (157 years ago today, and 141 years ago today)–illustrate a slice of life from the mid- to late-Victorian Era United States. To amateur historians like me (and many readers of western historical romance fiction), newspaper articles like these allow us to draw conclusions based on the readings. What do you think of these two examples of marriage in 19th century America?
In Part 2 of this blog series, I share 70 newspaper clippings from Victorian America, wherein reports abound that husbands have sold their wives. Prices range from $0.05 (5 cents) to thousands of dollars (US, Victorian). I provided price comparisons, just for impact. Throughout, I provided my opinions regarding TRUTH or JOKE. Ultimately, there had to be some of both. What a bizarre practice!
Join me for the first of two parts–For Sale: WIFE. Victorian American Newspapers of the mid- to late-nineteenth century (and early 20th century) illustrate the extinct custom of wife selling and wife trading. The newspaper article featured in this blog post showcases this antiquated approach to marriage (and wives as chattel–literally, a man’s property) as part of a greater, overarching problem of crumbling morality.
Judge John H. Arbuckle promised divorces to unsuspecting men duped by mail-order brides from the East who padded their limbs, hips, bosoms or employed false hair or used cosmetic paints. Such elements of beauty were common in the Victorian American Era, at least among the wealthy. It must have been common enough among disillusioned bridegrooms for the Judge to rule (April 3, 1873) that “marriages into which a man is seduced by the use of (his list of offenses like makeup and padded breasts) without the man’s knowledge, shall stand null and void if he so desires”. Victorian ladies were guilty of nothing today’s generation hasn’t done. But just what padding devices and cosmetics were readily available in the early 1870’s?
Victorian-era Americans (both men and women) had ready access to commercially prepared human hair pieces. Women wore them to achieve the style of the day without cutting their hair or to achieve the fullness and length considered stylish and desirable when their own hair couldn’t grow to such amazing lengths. Mail-order catalogs of the period provided a wide variety of products, appealing to men and women alike, including products purported to restore gray hair to the color of youth.