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I just wrapped up penning a Personal Ads for the library’s February passive program. In short, I took books in danger of being discarded due to poor check-out statistics and, in a last ditch effort,t wrote “personal ads” in character. This is referred to as Library Blind Dates, Hidden Gems, or other name; whence the books are wrapped up and interested patrons must check them out, sight unseen, save for tantalizing teasers. In my instance “personal ads.”

Young Women Reading a Letter by Ferdinand Georg Walmuller, 1841

Naturally, I wondered about personal advertisements during the 19th century. I am already aware it played a huge, albeit background role, in the previous centuries. Both men and women put out “lonely hearts” notices in the newspaper, in hopes to form a epistle relationship with another person, often with intent to meet, should things go well. It was unsurprising many con-men were behind such adverts. They lamented their woe and claimed they could not meet in person because they have not the fare. Their besotted recipient might take pity on them and send them money.

These calls for attention, legitimate or otherwise, often requested the other person to be of considerable wealth. It helped if the wealthy person was also beautiful and inclined to marriage. . .  Though, I wonder how many wealthy people paid much head to this portion of the newspapers. Some women essentially became voluntary Mail-Order Brides; which was accepted at the time (more or less), as money/station trumped love and happiness every time; as far as Society was concerned.

The 21st century interpretation could be any online dating site and Facebook, to a lesser extant. Is it not so much different? Is distance but a small obstacle in the joys of companionship?

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