Advertisements to Marry Out West

In the western frontier regions in the mid to late 1800s of the Dakotas, Kansas, Wyoming, Utah, and California to name a few, it was difficult to meet a future female spouse. Ladies, few in number, were already married or not the marrying type. Men were plentiful out west, those seeking a new life and their fortune. One California newspaper claimed in 1859 that male settlers in the recently minted state outnumbered women 200 to one. The single ladies back East had few men to select from due to those killed or wounded during the American Civil War or those fighting the Indians.

Besides needing a spouse, there was a big advantage, the Federal government homesteading Act offered 320 acres of land to a single man, but 640 acres to married couples. People also needed partners if they expected to be able to work that land or keep a house.

The rise of personal and matrimonial ads—appeals for companionship in newspapers and magazines, as well as in specialist publications devoted entirely to matchmaking—in 19th-century America was a then-modern solution to an age-old problem. The newspapers became an essential way that farmers, or anyone who was geographically isolated, was going to find a spouse—both for men and women.

The personal ads were semi-regular features of most newspapers, and some canny entrepreneurs began selling broadsheets, such as Matrimonial News, that only carried marriage ads. Men paid $0.25 to place an ad (about $4.50 in today’s dollars). Women posted for free. It eventually boasted 300 ads a week. These markets expanded with the country, as the railroads and telegraph wires that increasingly crisscrossed the nation enabled the easier spread of both people and information.

The ladies who either answered those ads or placed the ads themselves knew there was a real risk of death, violence, and isolation attached to the frontier, yet many women still went, which underscores how little there was for them in the “civilized” parts of the country. The whole courtship was sometimes conducted by mail. Some culminated in the woman agreeing to marriage and traveling to join a fiancé she’d not yet met in person.

This would be a great segment to include in your family history if it occurred in your lineage. One big way is if one spouse was in an eastern state and the other spouse in a western area up until the time they married. Keep in mind, one future spouse could also travel for homestead land to Florida in the late 1800s, not just out west. There were very few unmarried ladies in the central and southern portion of Florida. Another is a future spouse who was in a European nation and came to America and went west via a matrimonial advertisement.

It is worth checking.

Photo: Matrimonial News- 1870s

Related Blogs:

A ‘Boston Marriage’

The Meeting and Marriage

Unusual Aspects of Marriage and Families

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