In 1905, The Courier of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania published an article detailing a “Correspondence” Courtship Scam. A young, innocent girl lost more than her heart, more than $1,000 (a fortune in today’s dollar)–she lost her confidence and her trust in humanity.
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.
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.
Though another blogger cited the first recorded use of “mail-order bride” in the New York Times in 1929, I’ve found documentation in other newspapers of the phrase in use much earlier. The short snippets of stories illustrating the use of “mail-order bride” in the decades between the Turn of the Century and 1929 illustrate the general acceptance of this phrase in American English prior to 1916 or 1911, earlier than 1906…yes! 1903! (And perhaps even earlier as more historical documentation becomes readily available).
After a 12-part series consisting of lengthy blog posts covering many (but far from all) scams reported in Nineteenth Century Mail-Order Bride situations, is it possible to believe anyone found success in such a venture?
It’s true! While happiness might not garner front-page news stories, happy mail-order bride marriages did occur–more often than they ended in disaster. This article contains six historically documented SUCCESS stories!