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16 Ways to Find Love in the Personal Ads (in 1900)

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In the early 1900s, meeting someone through a newspaper personal ad enjoyed a brief period of semi-respectability—especially in the West, where your burgeoning little town may not have even had any eligible people of the opposite sex. Rural life was hard, almost untenable without a helpmate.

The ads, accordingly, were short and direct. Love was never mentioned. “Suitability” was the characteristic that mattered. Yet among these stark requests for partnership, strange variants could occur. Here are some versions of them.

Missed Connections and Fantastic Haircuts

Here we see two examples of the sweetest of meet-cutes, the lost opportunity on the streetcar. Except one is actually shilling for a barber, and quite clumsily at that. Try and guess which!

1. “Gentleman would like to correspond with young lady, dressed in light, wearing large black hat, who was on Broadway car last Sunday evening, sitting next to lady chewing gum. “

2. “Young lady, stranger in the city, would like to meet gentleman that was on the 6:30 Akeny car last evening. The one who said he had just got his hair cut for 25 cents and his shoes shined free at the Model Barber Shots. He said it is the place that employs only the best of barbers.”

Wanted: Servant

First, clean my house and file my papers. Do a good job and you’re hir…my everlasting true love.

3. “Gentleman, in office, seeks lady assistant; matrimony if suited.”

4. “HOUSEKEEPER: 18 to 30 years of age, wanted by widower,40. Have prominent position with the rail company, have 75 acre ranch also house in town; object matrimony if suited; have boy 13 years old, would not object to housekeeper having child. Can give best references.”

Points for Honesty?

Most writers of personals made themselves sound like wealthy young sophisticates who were taking time off from their European luxury cruise to jot down the ad. But occasionally there was a person wasn’t shy about who he was and what he wanted. On average, what he wanted was a young stout lass who works like a mule on the ranch she also owns. Here’s hoping they had good luck with that.

5. “Middle aged mechanic desires acquaintance of respectable domestic; blonde, stout, age about 25 preferred. Object: matrimony.”

6. “I want a good wife of matured age. I have a nice home and some income property, but am some involved. Would secure a wife that could help me out; then we would have income enough to live on without work.”

7. “Gentleman from East wishes to meet widow owning ranch; no objection to a small child or two, object marriage.”

8. “Wanted: wife. Farmer’s daughter preferred, willing to marry poor man. Must be good girl, good-looking, weight 100 or under, no grafters.”

Just Get Me Out of Here

These ads beg to tell tales of scandal and loss that we will never know.

9. “A widow, 36, would like to correspond with gentleman either from Alaska or the East. Have some property, excellent housekeeper and cook; willing to go anywhere, all letters containing self-addressed envelopes answered. No triflers.”

10. “Young woman, reared in luxury, having lost everything and earned her living for the past eight years, is tired of teaching and wishes a home: would like to meet a well-to-do businessman who would appreciate refinement and affection in a wife. Object: matrimony.”

True Love, On Sale Now

In these ads, the men specifically want to do business with a lady. They apparently thought them easier marks; more likely to hand over money to a “gentleman” who could fling a little woo. Sure I love you, my sweet. Just make that check out to “cash.”

11. “Young New York Gentleman in publishing business wants to meet a young lady , 18 to 24 years old, with $500. $50 weekly assured. Must be refined; object matrimony.”

12. “Gentleman, 40, would correspond with lady of some means; business proposition and results; have had experience; no triflers.”

13. “Businessman and gentleman, 40, good appearance and habits, stranger in the city, wishes the acquaintance of lady with a small amount of money, to take interest in paying business; strictly confidential. “

Nothing Suspicious Here

Of course men could be easy marks too, if you knew what to offer. Who could have imagined how many beautiful, submissive women were out there, begging rugged Oregonian men to take their money and give their life meaning? And that the best way to do that would be through a 7 cent personal ad?

14. “Attractive, refined lady, independently wealthy; cash and property; generous, with sweet disposition, seeks husband and advisor.”

15. “Young widow, age 28 with $10,000: lady, 20, with $50,000; lady, 25, $15,00, blonde, 18, cash and beautiful farm. I seek honorable husbands for all these. Contact Mrs. W, Chicago.”

Won’t Get Burned Again

And my very favorite, the gentleman who will have no truck with waitresses or shooting gallery clerks. It sounds like he’s speaking from the side of experience. Painful, painful experience.

16. “Gentleman of 30 would like to meet or correspond with a widow or maid; strictly confidential, no triflers, no waitresses, shooting gallery clerks, or lady barbers will be considered. Object: matrimony.”

See Also: 7 Tips for Keeping Your Man (in the 1950s)

* Personal Ads are from The Oregonian newspaper, from between 1901 and 1909.

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‘American Gothic’ Became Famous Because Many People Saw It as a Joke
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Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

In 1930, Iowan artist Grant Wood painted a simple portrait of a farmer and his wife (really his dentist and sister) standing solemnly in front of an all-American farmhouse. American Gothic has since inspired endless parodies and is regarded as one of the country’s most iconic works of art. But when it first came out, few people would have guessed it would become the classic it is today. Vox explains the painting’s unexpected path to fame in the latest installment of the new video series Overrated.

According to host Phil Edwards, American Gothic made a muted splash when it first hit the art scene. The work was awarded a third-place bronze medal in a contest at the Chicago Art Institute. When Wood sold the painting to the museum later on, he received just $300 for it. But the piece’s momentum didn’t stop there. It turned out that American Gothic’s debut at a time when urban and rural ideals were clashing helped it become the defining image of the era. The painting had something for everyone: Metropolitans like Gertrude Stein saw it as a satire of simple farm life in Middle America. Actual farmers and their families, on the other hand, welcomed it as celebration of their lifestyle and work ethic at a time when the Great Depression made it hard to take pride in anything.

Wood didn’t do much to clear up the work’s true meaning. He stated, "There is satire in it, but only as there is satire in any realistic statement. These are types of people I have known all my life. I tried to characterize them truthfully—to make them more like themselves than they were in actual life."

Rather than suffering from its ambiguity, American Gothic has been immortalized by it. The country has changed a lot in the past century, but the painting’s dual roles as a straight masterpiece and a format for skewering American culture still endure today.

Get the full story from Vox below.

[h/t Vox]

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“Dissension” by Tobias Rothe. Original image courtesy Fondazione Federico Zeri/Università di Bologna // CC-BY 3.0
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Get Your GIFs Ready for This International Public Domain GIF-Making Competition
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“Dissension” by Tobias Rothe. Original image courtesy Fondazione Federico Zeri/Università di Bologna // CC-BY 3.0

Excellent GIF-making skills can serve you beyond material for your clever tweets. Each year, a group of four digital libraries from across the world hosts GIF IT UP, a competition to find the best animated image sourced from public domain images from their archives.

The competition is sponsored by Europeana, the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA), New Zealand’s DigitalNZ, and the National Library of Australia’s Trove, all of which host millions of public domain works. The requirements are that the source material must be in the public domain, have a 'no known copyright restrictions' statement, or have a Creative Commons license that allows its reuse. The material must also come from one of the sponsored sources. Oh, and judging by the past winners, it helps if it’s a little whimsical.

The image above won the grand prize in 2015. And this was a runner-up in 2016:

via GIPHY

This year’s prizes haven’t been announced yet (although Europeana says there will be a new one for first-time GIF makers), but last year’s grand prize winner got their own Giphoscope, and runners-up got $20 gift cards. (Turns out, there’s not a lot of money in public domain art.)

Not an expert GIFer yet? You can always revisit the audio version of DPLA’s advanced GIF-making tutorial from last year.

The fourth-annual GIF IT UP contest opens to submissions October 1.

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