Book Review of Chris Enss’s title: Wicked Women: Notorious, Mischievous, and Wayward Ladies from the Old West. This nonfiction, informative, entertaining book presents women of the Old West–their impact and influence on mining towns, settling the west, and men from prospectors to politicians.
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?
The Heiress A Chambermaid: Adventures of Two Lovesick Men in a Hunt for $85,000 Through a Matrimonial Agency
Scams involving fraudulent matrimonial companies abounded in the nineteenth century. Vintage newspapers often reported circumstances, chastised the foolish hearts who sent money to their correspondent, and insisted that no man or woman worth marrying needed to resort to the mail or an agency. This article, titled the same (as my post) was originally published in The New York Times, January 21, 1900, and details the circumstances of a purported “heiress”, gushing love letters on scented stationery, her two lovesick swains, the Manhattan matrimonial agency, and the judge’s decree.
* One Chicago Matrimonial Bureau circulated the photograph of one miss to cowboys in the West, inferring an abundance of brides…
* Matrimonial Bureau run by a man named Chinn, accused of having purchased pictures of Actors and Actresses and passing them off as candidates for marriage.
* 40,000 Love Letters: Manager of a Matrimonial Bureau Slides Down a Rope From a Third Story Window (leaving wife and desperately ill baby behind in a closet)
* The Salvation Army, in the Cupid Business? (A delightful spot of humor!)
A murderer finds his victims through a matrimonial bureau; and two wealthy (and married) women entrap unsuspecting swains into expensive courtships, engagements, marriage– or close enough– broken hearts and shattered illusions.