Matrimonial clubs date as far back as 1849. Lonely hearts from Syracuse, New York to San Francisco, California joined such organizations in hopes of finding a suitable mate with whom to spend the rest of their lives. The New Plan Company based in Kansas City, Missouri was a matrimonial club that claimed to have more than 32,000 members during its existence from 1911 to 1917. According to the New Plan Company handbook printed in the fall of 1910, the plan and method of the club was simple and easy to understand and follow.
“Our time and money is devoted entirely to the interest of the unmarried,” the handbook read. “We are dedicated to elevating and promoting the welfare of marriageable people and furnishing them with a safe, reliable, and confidential method at a nominal cost, whereby good honorable people of sincere and moral intentions, may better enable themselves to become acquainted with a large number of such people of the opposite sex as they may deem worthy of consideration, which may lead to their future happiness and prosperity.”
Single individuals who wanted to join the club had to agree to pay a $5 fee if their membership resulted in matrimony. “Upon the marriage of our member, our fee for our services becomes due,” the New Plan Company rules stated. “We aid our members in every way possible to find their “ideal” and expect they will be prompt with us when they find the person of their choice.”
Club organizers required a $1 fee to be paid when hopeful bachelors and bachelorettes applied for membership. That amount would be deducted from the $5 due and payable at the time they marry. “This small fee, which is hardly to be considered as a factor,” the New Plan Company handbook explained,” keeps away all frauds and curiosity seekers and is a guarantee to us that all persons joining the club are in earnest and not triflers, and this knowledge is certainly beneficial to all members.”
Once the initial fee was paid members received a certificate good for twelve months. For an additional $1 members would then be sent a catalog containing the name and address of every man or woman seeking a spouse who had placed an ad with the New Plan Company. “All personal ads in this book are genuine and we have the original letters ordering the insertion of same on file in this office,” club organizers assured members. “Most every lady or man whose advertisement we have published has signed a statement in which she agrees to answer every letter received from gentlemen members who enclose postage, either accepting or declining correspondence.”
Bachelors and bachelorettes were encouraged to be quick about sending in their application before someone else had an opportunity to engage the attention of the single of their choice. “We believe we are giving you the greatest bargain in the world for your money,” the New Plan Company boasted in their literature. “If you know a good thing when you see it, you will lose no time in quickly taking advantage of their most liberal proposition.”
Over the course of the six year period the New Plan Company was in business the club’s staff reported that more than 2,500 single men and women found spouses. According to the 1915 edition of the New Plan Company handbook, “most marriages that occurred as a result of an ad placed in the New Plan Company catalog were between middle-aged people looking for companionship and security more so than romance.”
The following are samples of advertisements placed by singles in the September 1917 edition of the club’s catalog.
I do not wish to marry a wealthy man, but one who is comfortably situated and could provide a good home. I am an American; Baptist faith; age, 22; weight, 154; height 5 feet; blue eyes; light brown hair; considered fair looking; occupation, housekeeper. Have means of $2,000 and will inherit $3,000. Respectable, intelligent men only need write.
American; widow by death; age, 38, weight, 135; height, 5 feet 6 inches; brown eyes; brown hair; Methodist religion; occupation, housewife; income $700 per year; business education and musician. Have means of $10,000. I am considered very good looking and neat. Will marry if suited.
My position being such that I have not the opportunity of meeting suitable gentlemen; I take this means of finding my ideal; my age is 38, a maiden lady; weight, 142; height 5 feet 2 inches, brown eyes, brown hair, American; fine housekeeper, neat and plain, and fond of home; would marry if suited.
The people say that I am a good neighbor, a nice housekeeper, good cook and fine manager, always clean and neat, fond of home and children, and try to make home the happiest place on earth; am a widow; American, age 43, weight 120, height 5 feet 4 inches, blue eyes, brown hair, good education; have $500 personal property; object matrimony.
Winsome Miss of 18 years, considered attractive looking, have many friends, very pleasant and lively, blue eyes, dark hair, fair complexion, good education, good cook and housekeeper, weight 130, height 5 feet; would make the right man a good wife; have a profit of $10,000; will answer all letters containing stamps.
I am a widow of 59 years looking for a companion to travel down life’s path with me and make life worth living for; have blue eyes, brown hair, weight 110, height 5 feet; am English descent, a good housekeeper and have small income; I can make the right man happy with a good home.
Here I am boys, all the way from Texas, a black-eyed maiden of 30 years with dark hair, a brunette type, weight 115, height 5 feet 4 inches, nationality German, religion Protestant, college education and piano player; wish to correspond with business men, Western men preferred, between the age of 40 to 45. Will answer all letters.
A nice little blue-eyed Miss from North Carolina, with brown hair, age 18, weight 125, height 54 inches, fair complexion; can sing and play fair complexion; can sing and play piano; have a fine home, also have means of $50,000; my occupation is trained nurse; would like to hear from a nice young man of suitable age, rich or poor, but must be good-hearted and true; will marry a true love only.
I am a modest little girl of 19 summers with pleasant disposition, black hair, pretty brown eyes, fair complexion, weight 134, height 5 feet 6 inches; I am a farmer’s daughter, dress plain but neat; can cook and do housework; American; Catholic; fond of dancing and like amusement; would be willing to live in country; all letters answered. Object, matrimony.
Would like to correspond with a farmer about 30 to 35 years old. Am an American widow of 33; height, 5 feet 2 inches; weight, 200; brown eyes; brown hair; common school education. Personal property worth $1,500. Object matrimony. No flirts need write.
I am a Virginia widow; have one child, a little boy. I am 28 years old, height 5 feet 5 inches, brown eyes, brown hair; have $5,000 in town property. Am anxious to meet Western men; am considered nice looking and by some pretty. Will be pleased to correspond with Western gentlemen.
Am not considered good looking, but make a nice appearance; plain not neat dresser; immaculate character; quiet, loving disposition; Christian religion, age, 22; weight, 135; height, 5 feet 4 inches; blue eyes; blonde hair; light complexion. Would like to hear from gentleman interested in missionary work.
Once a month the editors at the New Plan Company would publish an article about a specific couple who owed their marital bliss to the ads placed in their catalog. The August 1913 edition of the catalog featured the story of friends that lost track of one another, were reunited through a three-line ad in the News, and later married.
“An ad in the News certainly does pay off,” said Mr. J.W. Morgan of Seattle, Washington. It was a little ad in the News that helped him find Miss Elizabeth Haans of Des Moines, Iowa, to whom he was recently married.
Miss Haans and Mr. Morgan were friends years ago when Mr. Morgan was an ambitious young teacher in a little Iowa town. He moved away and as the years passed by the little country town Miss Haans forgot all about him. She became deeply interested in art and decided to make it her life work. She studied hard-the best artists of the country were her teachers. About twelve years ago she came to Des Moines and started a studio. Someone said she would not last long. The remark reached Miss Haans’ ears. It fired her German and Irish blood (a bad mixture) to antagonize. She said the people would hear from her before she Des Moines and she made her word good. She has placed her work as far south as Old Mexico and as far north as Canada and from New York to California. A few years ago her piece of work in the Nude created a regular flurry at the Iowa State Fair. The newspapers carried column after column about it and sent her picture all over the country but not a word was said against Miss Haans.
She saved her money made from her teaching and bought property. She now owns property on the east side. She lived alone for many years. All her friends’ efforts to persuade her to marry were in vain and they began to think she was a man hater. She seemed perfectly contented to go life’s way alone. What had become of the young schoolmaster? He had married and settled down and became an instructor not only of children but of his own.
Several years ago he lost his wife in an accident. He chose to remain a widower and perhaps would have continued so if he had not by the merest accident learned that Miss Hanns was in Des Moines. Until then he did not know where she was. He decided to find her. He had been a member of the New Plan Company for two years. He remembered the New Plan Company catalog had a tremendous reach and hoped beyond hope that if he placed an ad stating he was looking for Miss Hanns she might read it.
Miss Haans did not see the advertisement. She was too busy to read the publication. However, many of the daily readers of the catalog saw the ad and one day after she finished a class a friend informed her that someone was looking for her. “Well, said her friend, “you had better answer the ad-it may be a proposal of marriage.” “That’s so,” said Miss Hanns, “I never thought of that; I guess I will answer it for I presume that it is the only way I will ever get a man.”
Miss Haans did respond to the ad and happily rekindled her friendship with Mr. Morgan. They wrote one another often over a three month period. Five months after the ad was placed in the New Plan Company catalog the couple wed. Mr. Morgan called the New Plan Company office the day after the wedding and thanked editors of the publication for the part the advertisement played in bringing them together.
The staff at the New Plan Company prided themselves on helping their members find their ideal mate and anticipated being paid promptly when the right person was found. “We received nothing for our time and labor until marriage occurs,” editors assured their members in every handbooks published. Members were also assured by the editors that they took their work very seriously. “We realize we have a job to do,” the editors noted, “and will work faithfully to fulfill our duties.”