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Wild Women Of The West: Without Any Courting

Marriage by advertisement...

June 10, 2020

Among the top stories that made the front page of the June 21, 1873, edition of the Denton Journal in Denton, Maryland, were two articles about the Matrimonial News publication.  The unique periodical was so widely read some editors felt it necessary to report on its popularity.  Under the headline “Marriage by Advertisement,” journalists noted that Matrimonial News was “the most flourishing property from coast to coast.”  The writer, however, did not agree it deserved that notoriety.  “The editor’s confidence in the gullibility and silliness of the public was not misplaced; it is shown in the astounding fact that between three and four hundred sober-minded individuals advertise every week for husbands and wives.  One has only to read to be convinced that the advertisements are bona fide and not cooked….  But for the evidence furnished by this journal we should not have believed that even ten respective persons would be found weekly….”

The reporter investigated the reasons why the Matrimonial News was so well thought of by hopeful, unattached men, and women.  He interviewed many people and came away with the following observations: “A great many ladies are anxious to be a darling to a deserving man and, unable to find someone through traditional mean, believe without reservation the publication can assist them.  Of the gentlemen, they are professionals, desperate to marry and convinced the paper would lead the way to a suitable partner.”

The Denton Journal reprinted a couple advertisements felt merited further attention and bore out its theory that those that contribute to the ads are “silly and desperate.”  “Meckla, well born, sweet-tempered, bright and loving, longs for the tender, soft connubial life.  She values the strong, looks for tender, soft, connubial tie.  She values the strong, manful knight of forty, far more than the handsomest, young dandy.  So faithful would she be to a noble, pure mind.  A more tender heart they could never find.

“Marriage – A Nobleman of English birth and ancient Irish lineage, between 59 and 60 years of age, good personal appearance, kind amiable, disposition and sound health, (10 years a widower) is anxious to contract marriage with a lady of about 40, or younger if offered….”

The author of the Denton Journal article concluded the piece with the same cutting remarks peppered throughout.  “What to think of such a newspaper we do not know, but if one third of the fools who angle for good matches every week in the Matrimonial News are in earnest, and if one-tenth of them succeed in getting their longing satisfied then we need hardly wonder those who remain single became overweight.  No more convincing evidence of the stupendous silliness of human nature was ever offered than this weekly Promoter of Marriage and Conjugal Felicity.  Signed – An American News Reporter.”

The second of the front-page stories was an example of a man and woman who met via the Matrimonial News, married, and lived happily ever after.  The article was entitled “Without Courting.”  New York resident Peter Patterson was not a well man; at least, that was his opinion.  Among the many ailments he believed he suffered from were headaches, stomach pains and depression.  The pleasant summer the East Coast city experienced in 1873 did nothing to restore his health or bring about even a modicum of joy.  He sought help from his family physician who assured him he was in fine health.  “You say nothing ails me, but I can tell what my feelings are better than you can,” Peter complained to the doctor.  The distraught man speculated he might be suffering from smallpox because he volunteered at a hospital where children dealing with the affliction resided.  “I couldn’t relish my coffee this morning; left my milk toast untouched,” he shared with the doctor.  “Hateful life, that at bachelor at a hotel.”

The doctor smiled and nodded as if suddenly realizing the reason for his patient’s distress.  “Why don’t you marry then?”  Said the doctor.  Peter was taken aback by the doctor’s suggestion and informed him that he’d be interested in taking such a step were it not for the extended courting that must precede the commitment.  “You spend six months or so, at least, dangling at a woman’s apron strings.”  The doctor confessed he felt courting was the “fun of it all.”  His patient turned up his nose and added that there were too few eligible women anyway.  The physician then advised Peter to search for a bride in the Matrimonial News.  The man agreed and after a time found a woman living in Kansas with whom to correspond.

Louise Muntle was a widow who lived on a farm.  She claimed to be forty years old, an exceptional cook and seamstress.  When Peter learned that she would be willing to take him in for a while, and should he become ill, nurse him back to health, he wrote her right away about meeting.  Peter traveled to Kansas, and he and Louise were instantly smitten with each other.  Louise later recalled her first thoughts of the suitor.  “Nice fellow,” she wrote in her journal, “solid, plenty of money; thinks himself ill, but isn’t ought to be married; told him so, but he hates the idea of courting.”

Before the first day of their meeting had ended, Peter proposed, and Louise accepted.  Louise’s grown son and daughter-in-law looked on as a minister performed the marriage ceremony and pronounced the two man and wife.

Louise took good care of her new husband.  She fed him homemade bread, fresh strawberries, buttermilk, and herb teas.  Peter’s complexion was glowing, and his dimples were pronounced.  After two short months he was happier and healthier than he’d ever been in his life.

Peter eventually wrote to his good doctor and told him he had taken his prescription, was a married man, and intended to bring his bride back to New York to meet him around Christmas.

The Denton Journal wrapped up the positive column with “congratulations to the newlyweds.”

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