One of the regular features on my blog at blogspot was The Friday Record, historical-minded posts. I’ve decided to resurrect The Friday Record and will probably be reposting some of my old posts, as well as coming up with some new ones. The one below is about Mail Order Brides, a popular concept in the late 19th and early 20th century (and to some extent, I think, even today). One of my books is about a Mail Order Bride, so this is also a little plug for SALVATION BRIDE. (This post first appeared on Chatting with Anna Kathryn blog on January 15, 2009.)
The Friday Record – Mail Order Brides
With the gold and land rush, men raced West to find their fortune. They soon realized, though, that the Western Frontier lacked a vital component—women. In 1850, twice as many men lived in California as women. There weren’t enough of-age females to go around for the marriage-minded gentlemen. So, on the heels of the gold and land rush phenomenon, came a new business enterprise—the mail order bride. Newspapers were filled with ads for both wives and husbands, while a few yellow sheets cropped up for the sole purpose of fulfilling the mail order bride demand. At least one lasted over thirty years and may have been responsible for over two thousand marriages.
A wonderful book on the subject is Hearts West: True Stories of Mail Order Brides on the Frontier by Chris Enss. Ms. Enss relates several true stories of both successful and disastrous marriages, as well reprinting real ads and photos for hopeful brides. (I’ll be giving away a copy of this book next Wednesday during my Salvation Bride blog-a-thon).
Aged 27, height 4 feet 9 inches, dark hair and eyes, considered handsome by all his friends untied in saying his amiable and will make a model husband. The lady must be one in the most extended acception of the world since the advertiser moves in the most polished and refined society. It is also desirable that she should have considerable money.
Women went West looking for opportunity, just as the men did. They hoped to find a rich man and security, as well as a bit of adventure. And they came, by wagon, stage, train and ship. One widow woman brought her five marriageable daughters to the gold fields. But the men held dreams as well.
A girl who will love, honest, true and not sour: a nice little cooing dove, and willing to work in flour.
Unfortunately, choosing a mate through a newspaper advertisement, with perhaps a few letters exchanged, didn’t always end in happily-ever-after. Lenient laws allowed for quick marriages and quick divorces. Some arrangements didn’t even make it to the altar.
One young lady, Kathleen answered an ad from a U.S. Soldier and traveled all the way from Ireland after he proposed to her in a letter. However, Lt. Carey’s idea of propriety and Kathleen’s differed. A week before the wedding, while he was away escorting a wagon train, a social was held at the fort, which Kathleen attended. She contributed a pie to the food table and danced with the soldiers when asked. Lt. Carey found his highly inappropriate and a called off the wedding. Kathleen’s pleas to reconsider went unheeded. Lt. Carey also demanded she pay him back the money he’d sent her for her fare. She went on to answer another ad and entered into a happy marriage. Lt. Carey never married.
Phoebe and William, however, had a much happier outcome, though they married the same day they met. For twenty-five years, they worked to make their farm successful, while raising a seven children. When they finally realized that no matter what they did, the hard Idaho earth wouldn’t support them, they moved north and found the life William always wanted to provide for them. They were happily married for forty-seven years before William died.
“Talk about salvation! Lovers of mail order brides and the men who find love with them will shout with glee over Anna Kathryn Lanier’s latest release.” -Natasha with Romance Junkies (4 Ribbon Review)
Four Spurs Review by Carol at Love Western Romances