Review - Book - Object: Matrimony by Chris Enss
Chris Enss has written a fabulous, entertaining book called "Object: Matrimony" about the mail-order bride industry during the late 19th century, a sort of follow up on previous book, "Hearts West: True Stories Of Mail-Order Brides On The Frontier".
Desperate to strike it rich during the Western Gold Rushes and eager for the free land afforded them through the Homestead Act, men went west alone and sacrificed many creature comforts. Only after they arrived at their destinations did some of them realize how much they missed female companionship.
One way for men living on the frontier to meet women was through subscriptions to heart-and-hand clubs. The men received newspapers with information, and sometimes photographs, about women, with whom they corresponded. Eventually, a man might convince a woman to join him in the West, and in matrimony. Social status, political connections, money, companionship, or security were often considered more than love in these arrangements.
Complete with historic photographs and actual advertisements from both women seeking husbands and males seeking brides, Object Matrimony includes stories of courageous mail order brides and their exploits as well as stories of the marriage brokers, mercenary matchmakers looking to profit as merchants did off of the miners and settlers. Some of these stories end happily ever after; others reveal desperate situations that robbed the brides of their youth and sometimes their lives.
Daily Alta California newspaper points out on October 6, 1859, there was 1 woman for every 200 men. Alaska in 1898 had 57 women for 3000 men. Ripe pickings for a single woman back East looking for a husband!
It was a 129-day trip overland from Independence, Missouri to San Francisco, California.
An alternative was taking a steamship via the ocean but that was still a three-month journey and fraught with danger. Between 1852 and 1867, 160 steamships burned, 209 blew up, and over 520 sank.
A popular option for single people was to post an ad in a newsletter/newspaper like Matrimonial News. The weekly Matrimonial News was established in 1870 in England by Leslie F. Duncan. It became so popular, two additional offices opened in San Francisco and Kansas City.
There were also matrimonial clubs (match-making clubs). One such clubs was called the Busy Bee Club set up in Arizona for marriage-minded singles. Membership to these clubs were usually free. Matrimonial clubs date back to 1849.
For those who had extra money to spend and who were a little more eager could pay for match-making services through a matrimonial agency or a marriage broker. Costs ran from $200 to $750 (a huge sum in those days).
Posted by Wendy Quest