You’re likely familiar with Victorian-era “bathing costumes”–puffy dresses with pantaloons that still leave much to the imagination, thereby protecting theÂ Victorian sense of propriety and decency. Inside this article, I share images of men’s bathing suits, attitudes (about bathing suits) expressed in United States newspapers of the day, and informative glimpses into a man’s view of a woman’s reasons for bathing in the sea before an audience…or not. A romantic tragedy on Coney Island in 1875 illustrates the dangers of the Victorian’s passion with immersing themselves in the sea.
The more I study historic details of America’s past, the more I realize I don’t know–such as the common practice of suing for breach of contract when a young swain’s courtship derails and no marriage results. I was fascinated by newspaper accounts of settlements upon jilted brides, the dollar amounts sued for, common beliefs of the time period about courtship in general. Who knew courtship in nineteenth century America was such a legal risk?
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).
The Victorian Era was a time of Romanticism: flowery language, love letters as a part of courtship; and Valentine’s Day! Expectations and societal norms during the latter 19th century was filled with some traditions we recognize today, and some we might not.
The term “Mail-Order Bride” is a 20th century development, though current popular fiction suggests it was common as early as the Civil War.
Matrimonial advertisements were published in newspapers far more often than a “catalog” of sorts. In fact more than one Matrimonial-type newspaper started up in the late 19th Century. The Matrimonial News did quite well in London, Germany, and the United States.