Friday, September 2, 2016

Matrimonial Offer--Latest New York Style (1851)


Courtship, in the Victorian-era (1837 through 1900) United States, was highly influenced by Society's expectations of "proper", influential writings of ministers, and the ease with which gossip easily damaged a person's reputation. Women (beyond the desperately poor) began working in telegraph offices, attending high schools and colleges, and still most wanted the stability and protection a good marriage would bring.


Good manners expected certain behavior from decent young men (and not-so-young men) when courting and when asking a woman to marry him. The process typically asked permission to carry out a courtship (with the sole purpose to determine if marriage betwixt the pair would be a good fit) from the girl's father, brother, or other guardian.

MAIL ORDER BRIDES and CORRESPONDENCE COURTSHIPS turned the Victorian Ideal on its ear

Courtship, with all its niceties and proper methods of becoming acquainted could not occur with the late 19th Century Mail Order Bride (more accurately termed a Correspondence Courtship). Yet plenty of such marriages occurred and many succeeded.

Occasionally, someone devised a new twist on an Arranged Marriage, wherein the groom found himself a wife in a most unconventional way. I can hear the gasps of shocked outrage from Society's matrons when this "Latest New York Style" Matrimonial Offer appeared in the papers. While apparently originating in New York, this article, transcribed, below, appeared in The Weekly Wisconsin of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, on February 12, 1851.

Note: I've transcribed the newspaper article (exactly as it appeared in 1851: spelling, one long paragraph, punctuation followed by em-dash, etc.) as the 165-year-old newspaper either scanned poorly or was in such degeneration when scanned it could not copy well--or perhaps printed poorly to begin with. 

Matrimonial Offer--Latest New York style.--The following advertisement which we find in the New York Express, opens such an entirely new plan of winning the affections--or, at least, the hand of ladies--that we have no doubt it will be popular:

WANTED.--By a Gentleman, (who has neither the time or inclination for the idle forms and ceremonies of courtship,) a wife. He is of middle age, medium size, dark eyes and complexion, good education, polite, easy address, character and reputation unexceptional; habits strictly temperate, and possessed of property to the amount of $40,000 and over. He is 35 years old, of unexceptionable character and standing in society; good health, and kind, cheerful disposition; and if a widow, without children; and if possessed of property, whatever she has will be settled upon herself. He proposes to visit the World's Fair, in London, next May, and thence extend his tour through the greater part of Europe, and would like to have his wife accompany him. Any Lady wishing to reply to this note, will please address a note to 'Veritas,' office of Boyd's Express, 45 William st., within one week, over whatever signature she may see proper, to which she will receive an answer, appointing a time and place for a meeting between herself (or friend, if desired.) and the advertiser, (or friend, of  his,) to arrange preliminaries for an interview between the parties, should one be deemed necessary, after a full exchange of facts, examination of Daguerreotype likeness, &c. Should an interview be agreed upon, it can take place in the presence of such friends of the lady as she may please to invite. Up to this stage of the negotiation no names or identity need be disclosed, consequently no confidence can be abused; and guarded as the intercourse will be, no indelicacy or scandal can attach. The most satisfactory explanation will be made for the rather novel and unusual course adopted by the writer to obtain a wife, and as he makes the communication in PERFECT CANDOR and GOOD FAITH, he trusts that no one will reply to it other than in the same spirit.

Was this 1851 advertisement for a wife a scam? I don't know.
Did a fortuitous meeting occur? Did this man, calling himself 'Veritas', find true love? I don't know.
But I do know that historic newspaper publications are a primary way for authors to spark their creativity and come up with the gem of in idea.

What do you think? Would you be interested, had you been a marriageable woman, then? ...Or her mother? Is the premise interesting to you as the reader of Sweet Romance?

USA Today Bestselling Author Kristin Holt writes Sweet Victorian Romance set in the American West. She writes frequent articles about the nineteenth century American west--every subject of possible interest to readers and amateur historians. She contributes monthly to Sweet Americana Sweethearts (first Friday of each month) and Romancing the Genres (third Tuesday of each month).

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Copyright © 2016 Kristin Holt, LC


  1. Love these kind of post. I've actually seen "veritas" used in other such advertisements. It may have been a form of ????

    Thank you. Doris

    1. Hi Doris--
      I like these stories, too. I've seen "veritas" and wondered what it meant. =) According to Wikipedia: "In Roman mythology, Veritas, meaning truth, was the goddess of truth, a daughter of Saturn and the mother of Virtus." Makes sense.
      Thanks for stopping by.