The long his­tory of ad­ver­tis­ing for love,


he Found­ing Fa­thers knew we needed to pur­sue hap­pi­ness. They just didn’t know how hard we would. Freed from the traditions of the old world, the new cit­i­zens wanted to choose their mates. That free­dom, though, pre­sented new chal­lenges: In this vast young na­tion, how do you find the right per­son?

The an­swer was ob­vi­ous: Ad­ver­tise.

Francesca Beau­man’s “Mat­ri­mony, Inc.” is a lively his­tory of Amer­ica’s com­mer­cial­ized hunt for ro­mance, from the quaint per­son­als in 18th cen­tury gazettes to the crude come-ons of the in­ter­net age. Though the specifics change, the chal­lenges re­main con­stant.

It all be­gan in Bos­ton in 1759 when a not too picky fel­low ran an ad in the seek­ing: “Any young lady, be­tween the ages of eigh­teen and twenty-three, of a mid­dling stature, brown hair, of good Morals.”

By the 1780s, Man­hat­tan’s pop­u­la­tion of over 50,000 con­sisted of many new­com­ers. Al­ready known for its im­pa­tient pace, it was a city where peo­ple had to cre­ate their op­por­tu­ni­ties.

One day, one man did. “To the Fair Sex,” be­gan the star­tling ad in the July 23, 1788 “Im­par­tial Gazetteer.” A self-de­scribed “young gen­tle­man of fam­ily and for­tune,” ex­plained he was new in town, and tak­ing this novel ap­proach be­cause he was “de­sirous of en­gag­ing in the holy and happy state of mat­ri­mony.”

Iden­ti­fy­ing him­self only as “A.B.,” the bach­e­lor swore he was “not above t wo-and twenty, tall, stout and es­teemed agree­able.” He promised to an­swer all in­quiries promptly, whether they be from “maid or widow.”

Oh, but one other thing: Cor­re­spon­dents should be “un­der 40, not de­formed, and in pos­ses­sion of at least 1,000 pounds.”

There’s no record of whether A.B. ever met his rich, un­de­formed ideal wom­anan. But his pi­o­neer­ing ad­ver-ad­ver tise­ment set the blunt style for early per­son­als.

One ad­ver­tiser in the 18th cen­tury “Penn­syl­va­nia Packet” said he was look­ing for a woman “of sound wind and limb, with a clean skin, a sweet breath and a good set of teeth.” Sim­i­larly de­mand­ing was the 1860 Mas­sachusetts wid­ower who an­nounced, “I don’t want a lan­tern-jawed or glass-eyed woman.”

Women could be just as picky. Sound­ing fresh from a bad re­la­tion­ship, one 1851 Vir­ginia ad­ver­tiser de­clared no in­ter­est in any “sim­per­ing fool, who imag­ines a lady taken off her feet by his smiles.”

In­deed, “no mus­tached ba­boon need ap­ply, as no one will please me but a sen­si­ble, ed­u­cated gen­tle­man who ap-ap pre­ci­ates do­mes­tic hap­pi­ness.”

Per­sonal ads filled sev­eral needs in 19th cen­tury Amer­ica. One was en­ter­tain­ment. For a penny, you could get a news­pa­per filled with peo­ple’s lit­tle flir­ta­tions; for the price of a 2-cent stamp, you could re­spond. One Union soldier, Ed­win L. Ly­barger, placed his ad while re­cu­per­at­ing in an Army hos­pi­tal. He re­ceived amorous letters for years.

The per­son­als also filled a prac­ti­cal, pri­mary need. The more the coun­try grew, the greater the dis­tances that of­ten sep­a­rated the sexes.

Sin­gle women tended to set­tle in East­ern cities, where they could find jobs as maids and clerkscle­rks. Sin­gle men of­ten headed west to seek their for­tunes on the fron­tier.

Per­sonal ads be­came a bridge.

Louisiana seam­stress Sara Baines, 22, placed a “hus­band wanted” ad in a na­tional news­pa­per in 1869. Af­ter a year of open­ing letters, she de­cided on Jay Hem­s­ley, 46. She took the train out to meet him in Wy­oming. They mar­ried the next af­ter­noon. Then, like thou­sands of oth­ers, they set out for Cal­i­for­nia, where they opened a gen­eral store in a boom­ing mine town. The mar­riage lasted 51 years.

Swedish im­mi­grant Au­gusta Lar­son, 28, was a Chicago house­maid whenw she an­swered a “wife waanted” ad in 1892. Ole Ruud, a 43-yearoldold Nor­we­gian im­im­mi­grant, had bought land in Washington State and de­cided it was time to set­tle down. Five weeks af­ter Lar­son ar­rived in tiny Water­ville, they wed. Nine months into their long mar­riage, the first of many chil­dren was born.

But not ev­ery­one was so in­ter­ested in for­ever af­ter.

By the 1870s, the phrase “Ob­ject: Mat­ri­mony” com­peted with “Ob­ject: Fun.” For­get some sober farmer; one “gay and fes­tive” woman de­clared she would be sat­is­fied only by “the hand­somest young gen­tle­man in Cincin­nati.” An­other Ohio ad, placed by “a young lady of 20,”

looked for “a nice mid­dleaged gen­tle­man of means; ob­ject, plea­sure dur­ing the sum­mer­mer monthsmont­hs.”’

Come win­ter, the sugar daddy was on his own.

Un­sur­pris­ingly, some matches ended in dis­as­ter. Young women trav­eled hun­dreds of miles, as­sum­ing they were ren­dezvous­ing with pros­per­ous, age-ap­pro­pri­ate, po­ten­tial hus­band ma­te­rial only to find an old coot in a cabin. Brides dis­cov­ered their new hus­bands were drunks, bigamists – or worse.

With publi­ca­tions like “Mat­ri­mo­nial News” run­ning hun­dreds of ads, crim­i­nals be­gan scour­ing them for vic­tims. Carl Mueller mar­ried lonely women, took out in­sur­ance, then got his friend Dr.

Henry Meyer to poi­son them. It was a neat scheme un­til Mueller fell for one of his brides and turned in Mey­erMeyer, who wound up be­hind bars.

Heart­less Jo­hann Hoch used per­son­als to meet Marie Wal­cker, a lonely Chicago widow. The day they met, he pro­posed mar­riage. That night, he fig­ured how much her fu­neral would cost him. Poi­soned, she died weeks af­ter their wed­ding. Caught, and even­tu­ally linked to the deaths of at least 50 other women, “the Blue­beard Mur­derer” was hanged in 1906.

It wasn’t only men who prowled per­son­als, though. In­di­ana’s Belle Gun­ness had al­ready mar­ried, in­sured, and buried two hus­bands when she be­gan look­ing for love in the Chicago pa­pers. Men who an­swered her ads and vis­ited her farm tended to dis­ap­pear. At one point­point, 15 aban­doned steamer trunks filled her spare room.

It was only af­ter Gun­ness’ farm­house mys­te­ri­ously burned down in 1908 that the truth be­gan to come out. A woman’s head­less body was found in the cel­lar. Buried in the barn­yard were the par­tial re­mains of 40 men. In­ves­ti­ga­tors guessed Gun­ness had poi­soned her vic­tims, then dis­mem­bered them. What­ever she didn’t bury, she fed to her pigs.

Sto­ries about these and other per­sonal-ad psy­chos – Harry Pow­ers, who in­spired “The Night of the Hunter,” Ray­mond Fer­nan­dez and

Martha Beck, “The Honey­moon Killers” – drove down the in­ter­est in mat­ri­mo­nial column­scolumns. Al­though the ads later had a re­vival, with hip Gothamites look­ing for love in New York mag­a­zine, they weren’t as nec­es­sary anymore.

Sin­gles bars were more im­me­di­ate and would be re­placed by com­puter dat­ing out of the punch-card. Even­tu­ally, al­go­rithms sup­pos­edly of­fered up your per­fect match. In a hurry? No need to spend months search­ing for Mr. Right. Just get the Tin­der app and find Mr. Right Now.

Tin­der’s fa­mous swipe, like so many great in­no­va­tions, was borne of an ev­ery­day moment.

“I was get­ting out of the shower one morn­ing, wip­ing the mir­ror be­cause the room was steamy, and I saw my­self star­ing back at my­selfmy­self,” says Jonathan Badeen, the third per­son to join the com­pany. “Then I wiped the other di­rec­tion. All of a sud­den it clicked.”

To­day, “one in three re­la­tion­ships be­gin on­line and one in five mar­riages are a re­sult of a dat­ing web­site or app,” Beau­man writes.

While how folks ad­ver­tise them­selves has changed, what they want hasn’t. They’re still se­duced by good looks, money, and charm. The lovelorn still hope that this time, this one, will be dif­fer­ent.

And they their weight. still lie about

business as usual for Trump, , as his newly re­vealed tax re­turns prove. prove The real scan­dal wasn’t even the $750 he paid in taxes in 2017, it’s that he’s in so much debt he’s the ideal tar­get of any kind of in­flu­ence op­er­a­tion, as long sus­pected. Some­one with that much lever­age over him and his fam­ily shouldn’t be al­lowed to mow the White House lawn, let alone speak from the Rose Gar­den.

Vladimir Putin, the Saudis and other dic­ta­tor­ships that work like mafias are al­ways on the look­out for vul­ner­a­ble com­pa­nies and business own­ers they can use to laun­der their looted bil­lions and to gain in­flu­ence in the free world. Trump’s fawn­ing over Putin and Mo­hammed bin Sal­man would make a lot more sense if theey own more of his as­sets than he ddoes.

Mean­while, Putin is work­ing hard to get Trump re­elected, and Trump is, to quote his for­mer na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser, Gen. H.R. McMaster, “aid­ing and abet­ting Putin’s ef­forts.” That would be a dev­as­tat­ing bomb­shell in any other ad­min­is­tra­tion in U.S. his­tory, but in Trump­world it barely makes the top 10 scan­dals of the week.

Speak­ing of aid­ing and abet­ting, the GOP, the “law and or­der” party, is con­tent to ig­nore these daily out­rages. They are now prepar­ing to rush through the nom­i­na­tion and con­fir­ma­tion of Amy Coney Bar­rett, Trump’s choice to re­place Ruth Bader Gins­burg on the Supreme Court. The Repub­li­can con­trol of the Se­nate means they may achieve this, de­spite their hypocrisy af­ter block­ing Pres­i­dent Obama’s nom­i­nee in the last year of his pres­i­dency.

The de­fense by Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Mitch McCon­nell, Sen. Ted Cruz and other Trump en­ablers is that push­ing Bar­rett through at all speed is con­sti­tu­tional. Not that it will re­flect the will of the Amer­i­can peo­ple, or the traditions sur­round­ing the high­est court in the land, but sim­ply that it’s le­gal.

The Democrats can then counter with their own “con­sti­tu­tional” moves if they take back con­trol of the Se­nate and the White House, like adding two more seats to the court and ap­point­ing lib­eral jus­tices to re­store the bal­ance. As with rush­ing Bar­rett through now, this wouldd be le­gal. And, as with McCon­neell’s power play, it would be bad foor the gov­ern­ment and the count­try, per­pet­u­at­ing a down­ward cy­cle oof de­stroy­ing norms in the pur­su­uit of power.

Tru­ump is an in­com­pe­tent buf­foon, aand could never make any pro­greess with­out en­ablers like Cruz and AAt­tor­ney Gen­eral Bill Barr. They aren’t ig­no­rant yes-men or brutissh ide­o­logues. They chan­nel Trummp’s base in­stincts and vile self-in­nter­est into a con­sti­tu­tional framee­work to suit their own in­ter­ests. TThey un­der­stand the dam­age they aare do­ing, and the risk Trump re­pressents; they just don’t care as long aas they can ben­e­fit from it in the mean­while.

To aavoid a re­tal­ia­tory race to the bot­tomm, the Democrats should stand on prin­ci­ple now. They shouldd tell McCon­nell that they will pack the court if he goes througgh with ram­ming the Bar­rett nomin­na­tion through. They have to say it nnow, and should boy­cott the con­fir­rma­tion hear­ings if McCon­nell goes ffor­ward. Bar­rett’s qual­i­fi­ca­tions aand back­ground are not the is­sue; it is the le­git­i­macy of the mo­meent and the man nom­i­nat­ing her.

Sen­na­tors may have a duty to at­tend hhear­ings, but their fore­most duty is to de­fend the Con­sti­tu­tion to which they swore an oath, not to serve as props in a cha­rade. They shouldd re­mem­ber what a lib­eral lil­ion of the court, Justice Earl War­ren, once wrote: “It is the spirit and not the form of law that keeps justice alive.”

In­tegrity and the spirit of the law mat­ter be­cause you can never put ev­ery­thing in writ­ing. You can­not pre­dict ev­ery loop­hole, ev­ery le­gal an­gle and chal­lenge to com­mon sense. There must be a place for norms and prece­dent and the in­tegrity to up­hold them in the pub­lic in­ter­est or we are lost. Yes, we must patch up the cracks and cod­ify the cus­toms and stan­dards Trump has tram­pled, but that is not enough. Even re­pu­di­at­ing Trump over­whelm­ingly at the polls will not be enough un­less we de­ter those who would fol­low in his dem­a­gogue’s foot­steps.

That this White House and its con­gres­sional GOP en­ablers don’t be­lieve in sci­ence has now been ver­i­fied be­yond any doubt. But I’m even more con­cerned about their lack of be­lief in the rule of law and in­tegrity in Amer­i­can gov­ern­ment. The health of Amer­i­can democ­racy is of far greater con­se­quence than the health of Don­ald Trump.

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