Whether referred to as “Correspondence Courtship” or “Epistolary Courtship”, part of the natural course of 19th century courting included letter-writing. Victorian-era couples could express tender sentiments in letters more easily (often) than in person. Many couples didn’t have the opportunity to spend time together, face-to-face, for too many miles separated them. Coming to know one another, and fall in love, through letter-writing was a standard practice. Results varied from blissful conjugal felicity (a frequently used term of the American Victorian era) to sensational disasters.
Interestingly enough, the term “Correspondence Courtship” (or very similar phrasing) appeared much more frequently and earlier than did the phrase “Mail-Order Bride”.
In 1865 (34 years earlier than Franks’ scheme), a similar incidence in New England didn’t get quite so far but caused quite a stir.
I believe FACT is stranger than FICTION.
And often the BEST fiction is solidly founded in FACT. Hence my keen interest in the truth of Matrimonial Agencies, Matrimonial Personal Advertisements, and real-life stories of couples connected through the mail in the nineteenth Century.
Often, FACT is stranger than FICTION.
Interestingly enough, readers of Mail-Order Bride-themed Historical Romance aren’t likely to find much in the way of FACTS in the fiction we so love to read. But that doesn’t mean the true history behind the popular niche isn’t fascinating to those of us who read and write it. Risks were very well known. Newspaper reporters often were behind advertisements. Boredom lead truly unmarriageable people to engage in entertainment through the mail system and matrimony agencies. Practical jokes accounted for many…considered a gentleman’s sport in the era.
How did 19th century folks go about ordering something from Montgomery Ward or Sears, Roebuck & Co. catalogues? How was payment sent? What about delivery options?