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.
I endorse newspaper articles as an original source in researching Victorian-era America. Yet while I trust–for the most part–newspaper articles to be a reasonable representation of attitudes, circumstances, happenings, and differing opinions, I’m well aware that not everything in print is fact…at least as presented.
I came across newspaper articles mentioning Mrs. Charlotte Smith, presented as a rather ridiculous woman seeking legislation to force marriage upon the matrimony unencumbered. Three such articles follow, all of which are from credible, well-respected newspapers of the late nineteenth century. At the bottom, I’ll share more of who Mrs. Charlotte Smith was, the platforms she supported, the work she did–and cast an entirely different light on her nature than these newspaper reporters suggest.
Flourishing in Our Midst are “Matrimonial Agencies” Which Seem to Need Attention:
Trysting Places for fools, Old and Young Which Can Be Dispensed With.
One Institution Investigated, the Vile Character of Which its Proprietors Do Not Deny.
The original newspaper article appeared in The Inter Ocean Newspaper, Chicago, Illinois, 28 August 1887.
A parade through historical newspapers taking a look at the wild and colorful history of one Charles H. Rowan, proprietor of a matrimonial agency in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in the late 1890’s. He was accused, arrested, tried, found not-guilty, allegedly bribed government officials, retried–and the story doesn’t end there.
* 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!)