Friday, June 3, 2016

Matrimonial Fool and his Money

 by Kristin Holt




Detroit Free Press, of Detroit, Michigan, on May 5, 1913

"Advertisements were inserted in newspapers in various parts of this country and in Germany, in which it was stated that the advertiser was a young and pretty woman, with money and a great desire to wed. Men who were foolish enough to take the bait would contribute a fee of $2 and get nothing in return for their money."
~San Francisco Chronicle, 4 August 1894

The Dispatch of Lexington, North Carolina, on May 11, 1910.

"...Matrimonial Bureaus are designed solely to lure the foolish and give opportunity for the crafty, or, in plainer words, to entice the vain and frivolous to the aunts of the procuress; and that they are but the ante-rooms of the gilded halls of vice."
~A. De Montaigue, The Tennesean, of Nashville, Tennessee, on July11, 1887

Steuben Republican of Angola, Indiana, on November 25, 1903.


Why did men of the 19th and early 20th centuries patronize matrimonial bureaus?

Scams perpetrated by villains and crooks out to make a quick buck were widely known in the era. Yet some matrimonial bureaus were honest, law-abiding, and introduced hundreds of couples successfully. Some couples reported blissful unions. I wrote a 12-part article series about the scams associated with matrimonial bureaus, as well as one about real mail-order bride success stories.



The Times-Picayune of New Orleans, Louisiana, on November 14, 1882, Part 1
The Times-Picayune of New Orleans, Louisiana, on November 14, 1882, Part 2

Compelling reasons, I'd say. Here's a short list culled from the above article from 1882:

  1. Young men too timid to make a lady's acquaintance
  2. Young men who have no time for courting
  3. Young (or not) men who are in a great hurry
  4. A widower leaving port in three days who requires a new wife to care for his four children
  5. Men employed in places with no women within 50 miles
  6. Foreigners who do not know enough English to propose marriage, but want an American wife as to learn the language
Can you think of other reasons why a man might send for a mail-order bride, even though they knew the risk of losing their money to an unscrupulous scammer?
Hi! I'm Kristin Holt.
I write frequent articles (or view recent posts easily on my Home Page) about the nineteenth century American west–every subject of possible interest to readers, amateur historians, authors…as all of these tidbits surfaced while researching for my books. I also blog monthly at Sweet Americana Sweethearts (first Friday of each month) and Romancing the Genres (third Tuesday of each Month).

I love to hear from readers! Please drop me a note.



  1. Love the ads you found, Kristin. Thanks for sharing them.

  2. Krista...would love to "blogjack" some of your posts for Cowboy Kisses. Would you mind?

    1. Hi Ginger--
      Sure! I'd like to see the info shared. Please link back to the original post or my personal website ( Thanks! It's flattering that you find my content repostable.

  3. Fascinating as always. Thank you for adding to the knowledge. For me, knowlege is the key. Doris/Angela

    1. Hi Doris/Angela--
      Yes! Knowledge is key! I find the more I learn the more I realize I don't know... but I'm also better prepared to set fiction in an accurate past.
      My thanks,

  4. those poor children! Their mother dies, living with neighbors, then the dad is home for three days, marries, then up and leaves for THREE YEARS, leaving them with a slightly insane woman! Truth really is stranger than fiction!

    1. Hi Lucy--
      You said it! That part of the newspaper article shocked me too. I can't imagine being that kind of desperate, trusting a new spouse I didn't know, at all, hadn't had time to court, who my children were unfamiliar with. What a horror story.
      Thanks for stopping by and contributing.

  5. Such good research, Kristin (as always!). I can't imagine leaving children with a spouse I didn't even know. My gracious!

    1. Hi Shanna--
      That part (leaving children with a brand-new spouse I didn't know) terrified me...and made the article something I simply had to share. Bizarre, isn't it? Glad I never found myself in such a desperate situation.
      Thanks for stopping by!