Flirting, during the American Victorian era, was often deemed in poor taste (and a sign of low-breeding). Men and women in large cities found a way around the censure–they flirted in the personals column of newspapers. Examples illustrate the personals used requesting an introduction (or interview), private and secretive communications, and to find a lady to begin a courtship. Mother (and/or chaperones) may not have approved…but what she doesn’t know won’t hurt her.
InÂ my recent post about The Proper (and safe) Way to Terminate a Victorian American Courtship because we all know the threat of a suit of Breach of Promise was too great, a quote by the Reverend George W. Hudson in his 1883 book sounded rather scandalous. The good reverend actually said “making love”–and he didn’t mean in a sexual way. It’s essential to note that the term had a very different meaning in the 19th Century and early 20th Century than it does now.
A man with two wives (neither knows about the other) seeks yet two more, entirely to swindle them of their means. This 1899 tale is so well worth reading.
Franks, as he presents himself on the West Coast, in the middle of defrauding women through multiple marriage agencies is scammed, himself, by a wealthy widow in demand of a expensive courtship.
Amateur historians will find myriad details worth noting, such as the communication of chiefs of police, use of the term “dead beat,” laws on the books, and so much more.
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.