Taking out an ad to find a marriageable mate long pre-dates (pun intended) the days of the internet. While American men, especially out West, were more likely to have to resort to “mail-order brides” and the advertising columns of newspapers, a surprising number of women were also willing to do something unconventional to reel in a good husband. Chicago marriage bureaus in the 1880s had more female clients than male.
In the mid-1800s, before newspapers were able to print photographs alongside “Wife Wanted” or “Husband Wanted” ads, a witty writing style was essential to vintage seekers of Cupid. And while Americans back then certainly ranked each other according to social standing and wealth — as they still do today — money, physical beauty, and professional promise weren’t always absolutely required in a partner.
Some of the most highly valued traits, in fact, were common sense, practicality, and a good sense of humor. Many prospective spouses — male and female — made no secret about their preference for “no-frills” applicants. Heart palpitations, “foppery,” “extravagance,” and “a pocket full of musk”? No, thanks!
Some of what follows was probably meant as a joke, but these caught our eye, anyway.
Here’s some of our favorite historic “lonesome hearts” ads — from the Hoosier State and all over. If you can find a time machine, this may be your chance.
Here’s our personal comic favorite, originally printed in a St. Louis, Missouri, newspaper. The ad even went “viral,” appearing all over the South in 1866.
One of the most long-winded “matrimonials” was actually written up by the staff of the Lake County Times in northwest Indiana. Sam Crow, who was out looking for a wife on March 6, 1914, brings us up into the twentieth century.
Sadly, Sam Crow never found a wife — and no little crows ever “hopped and skipped over that splendid western land of his.” He died in Greencastle in January 1916, still unmarried.