Advertising for Love

Funny, strange, and poignant personal ads from the 19th century.

Pam Epstein

Pam Epstein
June 14
I'm a PhD graduate from Rutgers University, where I wrote my dissertation on the transformation of love and marriage in 19th-century America. I started this blog to share the funny, poignant, interesting, and just plain bizarre personal ads I've been researching for my work.


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Editor’s Pick
APRIL 13, 2011 10:20AM

For pity's sake

These make me sad.  But the second one, at least, makes me fascinated.

D - Any night but Wednesday; write at once; come this week; for God's sake, pity.

D.M. - Last delivery made, but no mail for Pennsylvania.  Have you no mercy?  A dreadful calamity… Read full post »
Editor’s Pick
MARCH 18, 2011 1:20PM

In the Navy

Did you know that this it is the sesquicentennial anniversary of the beginning of the Civil War?  And can you pronounce "sesquicentennial"?  Say that ten times fast.  Yes, folks, it's been 150 years since the war began and it's just as fascinating a topic as ever, and it gives me an…

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Editor’s Pick
FEBRUARY 16, 2011 9:33PM

Still not happy

I can't help it; I like the depressing ones best. Does that make me a bad person? It's not that they're so funny, exactly; I mean, they are sort of, but they are definitely more interesting. (Plus, they are way easier to find.)  So here are a few, all…

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Editor’s Pick
NOVEMBER 7, 2010 9:01AM

Aboard the USS John P. Jackson

Imagine being on a warship during the American Civil War.  Most of the time it's terribly boring.  Your main job is maintaining the blockade which keeps any supplies from entering the South.  Then every now and then you're drawn into battle, and dozens of your friends die all at once b…

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Editor’s Pick
OCTOBER 7, 2010 10:55PM

My dear soldiers

I totally lied about Wednesday.  Oops!  I'm telling you, the last two weeks have been total madness.

I have the biggest soft spot in the world for Civil War soldiers, and at the moment it is increased by the fact that I'm teaching that class again and we've just…

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Editor’s Pick
AUGUST 26, 2010 11:21PM

I think I need a wife

No, that's actually how this ad begins! Check it:

Matrimonial. - I think I need a wife; one educated well, and rich to, but not very, for I am a lawyer and somewhat of a politician, and she must maintain the station. For myself, I spurn the "social lie" which… Read full post »
Editor’s Pick
JULY 29, 2010 2:30PM

This is the saddest thing ever

Having just finished reading David Copperfield, this ad felt very apropos.

I see a lot of ads from people saying something along the lines of "come home, all is forgiven," often from or on behalf of parents.  They are almost always incredibly depressing.  Like: "So-and-so is dying, for Go…

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Editor’s Pick
JUNE 17, 2010 7:03PM


I wish I'd seen these ads in March, when they were actually appropriate, but I'm not waiting till next year.  So here are two totally chronologically out-of-place ads that I just found and love!

Estella - I was at the Purim Ball last night attired as King Ashasuerus. … Read full post »
Editor’s Pick
MAY 4, 2010 5:47PM

Another broken heart

I almost forgot to put up a post today. Been so distracted with life being super busy right now, blogging has kind of taken a back seat, but I am still here for you, dear readers. Today, another sad one:

Louise - In vain I have tried… Read full post »
Editor’s Pick
MARCH 23, 2010 8:45AM

People say the strangest things

Here are a couple rather amusing, if confusing, ads that have nothing to do with each other - and yet are all a little bit, let's say, unique.

Some one is deluded. McG - is not the chap. His romantic propositions have subsided. He is not… Read full post »
Editor’s Pick
NOVEMBER 24, 2009 8:30AM

Can you answer a personal?

This ad reminds me of one that I posted about the elegant lady.   It says: "Beautiful neighbor. - Your sweet face is sunshine to me.  Where and when can we meet?  Address CONSTANT, box 110 Herald office.  State some particulars for safety."

Now here's my question: I've talke…

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Editor’s Pick
OCTOBER 19, 2009 8:58AM

A gigolo?

Not the first one. Well, maybe the first one. What do you think?

December 21, 1889. — My dear friend, who sent the money and letter on Monday, I may never lay eyes on you again, but I ask you, for God's sake, to write me, if only one word;… Read full post »
Editor’s Pick
OCTOBER 16, 2009 8:03AM

Academic treasure hunts

One of the things I mentioned early on is how difficult it is to know who was actually writing all these personal ads. I think most of the people fall into the middle class somewhere, for a variety of reasons (Bertram being a good example, as always), but of course…

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Editor’s Pick
OCTOBER 2, 2009 7:50AM

Mail-order bride

It's funny; there's another ad from the same day this one is from that is so amusing - I'll post it eventually - that I never even noticed this matrimonial before. But it's interesting, so I thought I'd post it:

Matrimonial. - A gentleman of 35, a resident of California, and… Read full post »
Editor’s Pick
SEPTEMBER 24, 2009 7:41AM

You can't make this stuff up!

Things started to change at the end of the 19th century; ads got shorter, more terse, and less formal. A lot less formal. Like these three, which are right next to each other:

The first one is by far my favorite.

A talented, respectable young lady wishes honorable gentleman of means… Read full post »
Editor’s Pick
SEPTEMBER 18, 2009 7:40AM

Ménage à trois!

Here's a rare one!

Really, this is not something you see everyday - at least not in the nineteenth century. Go on Craigslist and this is tame. Still:

Yesterday, about three o'clock, twenty-third street stage to Grand street. -- Would the two young ladies (one dressed in black) allow the young… Read full post »
Editor’s Pick
AUGUST 24, 2009 9:56AM

How generous!

This ad, other than being rather long, is fairly typical but there's one thing that stands out to me as rather odd. See for yourself:

The text reads:More...

Matrimonial. - An intelligent gentleman, of good standing in society and in favorable circumstances, having some pretensions as to good lo… Read full post »

Editor’s Pick
AUGUST 19, 2009 10:29AM

Consolidated Ice and Oblivion

Some of these advertisers came up with bizarre nicknames; Hair Dye and Eyebrows come to mind, for example. But this one takes the cake, no doubt. It reads: "Consolidated Ice - Disappointed; lunch at one Thursday, same place, or telephone eleven sharp; leave Friday, love."

Consolidated Ice???/…

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Editor’s Pick
AUGUST 10, 2009 8:35AM

Someone's not paying attention

I know this ad doesn't look like much. It reads:

A young widow lady, 20 years of age, is desirous of forming the acquaintance of a professional or Southern gentleman, not over 35, and inclined to good looks, with a view to matrimony. Address Confidence, box 116 Herald office.

So what's/…

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Editor’s Pick
AUGUST 3, 2009 8:06AM

Your words alone are my desolation...

Some people just reveled in their tragedy. Seriously, read these and tell me what you think:

First, we have poor Juliet. She writes: "Romeo - Where art thou? Write to your Queen, your darling Juliet, 325, or Juliet 369 Herald Uptown." I mentioned this a long time ago, way,…

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Editor’s Pick
JULY 15, 2009 8:34AM

Best Beloved Adored Darling

I have no words to describe these ads. They were printed three days apart, so I can only assume they are from the same person - or the same couple. Here is the text:

ADORED darling. - How dark my life without the light that you shed upon it, how/… Read full post »

Editor’s Pick
JULY 1, 2009 6:35AM

Can we hook these two up?

Seriously - they'd make a perfect match. See for yourself: More...

A wife, of a suitable age, wanted by a professional gentleman between fifty and sixty years of age - one companionable, of good disposition, and quiet domestic habits, with some means to contribute to our mutual comfort… Read full post »

Editor’s Pick
JUNE 29, 2009 10:17AM

Why women wed

I said last week that women's matrimonial ads tended to be a bit more dry and dull than men's, and I have a couple theories about that, both of which revolve around - what else? - money. First and most simply, women probably had less money to spend on placing…

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