Would frontiersmen actually pool their financial resources to bring potential brides west? Would they trust one of their own to go East to find brides for them all? One county in Dakota Territory did just that in 1885. A California newspaper, The Petaluma Courier announced the plan.
The circumstances immediately brought to mind the premise behind my series, Prosperity’s Mail-Order Brides. Books 2 and 3 are in the queue (with titles!), and all have fancy new covers.
Auguste Carlier published MARRIAGE IN THE UNITED STATES in 1867. Section VI, titled “Marriages in the West”, This sheds light on the attitudes and perspective of Victorian Americans toward marriage, setting the west, mail-order brides, correspondence courtships, and courtship in general. The small section, provided within this article, is definitely worth a read!
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.
One common thread through all Articles in this series (Nineteenth Century Mail-Order Bride SCAMS) is the criminal’s intention to capitalize on their victims’ loneliness and desire for love and companionship.
Some brides-elect and grooms-elect actually had their intellect about them enough to recognize when things weren’t quite right (even if fraud was not involved in one out of three incidences)… and made prudent decisions about their course of action.