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

Getty Images
Getty Images

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.

Friday’s Best Amazon Deals Include Digital Projectors, Ugly Christmas Sweaters, and Speakers

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Amazon
As a recurring feature, our team combs the web and shares some amazing Amazon deals we’ve turned up. Here’s what caught our eye today, December 4. Mental Floss has affiliate relationships with certain retailers, including Amazon, and may receive a small percentage of any sale. But we only get commission on items you buy and don’t return, so we’re only happy if you’re happy. Good luck deal hunting!

10 Surprising Facts About Wham!’s 'Last Christmas'

Michael Putland/Getty Images
Michael Putland/Getty Images

Over the course of his illustrious career, George Michael gave the world many gifts. One that keeps on giving is “Last Christmas,” the 1984 holiday classic by Wham!, Michael's pop duo with Andrew Ridgeley. “Last Christmas” is such a uniquely beloved song that it inspired a 2019 film of the same name. That’s just one interesting part of the “Last Christmas” story. Read on for 10 fascinating facts about this seasonal synth-pop favorite.

1. George Michael wrote "Last Christmas" in his childhood bedroom.

“Last Christmas” was born one day in 1984 when George Michael and Wham! bandmate Andrew Ridgeley were visiting Michael’s parents. While they were sitting around watching TV, Michael suddenly dashed upstairs to his childhood bedroom and composed the modern Xmas classic in about an hour. “George had performed musical alchemy, distilling the essence of Christmas into music,” Ridgeley said. “Adding a lyric which told the tale of betrayed love was a masterstroke and, as he did so often, he touched hearts."

2. “Last Christmas” isn’t really a Christmas song.

There’s nothing in “Last Christmas” about Santa, reindeer, trees, snow, or anything we typically associate with the holiday. Rather, the song is about a failed romance that just happens to have begun on December 25, when Michael gave someone his heart, and ended on December 26, when this ungrateful person “gave it away.”

3. George Michael wrote and produced the song—but that’s not all.

Dave Hogan/Getty Images

By the time Wham! recorded “Last Christmas” in August (yes, August) 1984, Michael had taken full control of the group. In addition to writing and producing the song, Michael insisted on playing the Roland Juno-60 synth in the studio. “George wasn’t a musician,” engineer Chris Porter said. “It was a laborious process, because he was literally playing the keyboards with two or three fingers.” Michael even jangled those sweet sleigh bells himself.

4. “Last Christmas” didn’t reach #1 on the UK charts.

As the movie Love Actually reminds us, scoring a Christmas #1 in the UK is a really big deal. Unfortunately, “Last Christmas” didn’t give Wham! that honor. It stalled at #2, and to this day it has the distinction of being the highest-selling UK single of all time to not reach #1.

5. George Michael sang on the song that kept “Last Christmas” at #2.

“Last Christmas” was bested on the UK charts by Band Aid’s “Do They Know It’s Christmas,” an all-star charity single benefiting Ethiopian famine relief. Michael sang on “Do They Know It’s Christmas,” and was so committed to the cause that he donated his profits from “Last Christmas” to helping the African nation.

6. George Michael was sued for plagiarism over “Last Christmas.”

In the mid-1980s, the publishing company Dick James Music sued George Michael on behalf of the writers of “Can’t Smile Without You,” a schmaltzy love song recorded by The Carpenters and Barry Manilow, among others. According to Chris Porter, the recording engineer on “Last Christmas,” the suit was dismissed after a musicologist presented 60-plus songs that have a similar chord progression and melody.

7. "Last Christmas" has been covered by a lot of other artists.

Michael Putland/Getty Images

Jimmy Eat World, Hilary Duff, Good Charlotte, Ariana Grande, Carly Rae Jepsen, Gwen Stefani, and Taylor Swift are just a few of the artists who’ve covered “Last Christmas” over the years. The strangest rendition may be the 2006 dance version by the Swedish CGI character Crazy Frog, which reached #16 on the UK charts.

8. Some people make a concerted effort to avoid hearing “Last Christmas.”

While millions of people delight in hearing “Last Christmas” every year, an internet game called Whamageddon encourages players to avoid the song from December 1 to 24. The rules are simple: Once you hear the original Wham! version of “Last Christmas” (remixes and covers don’t count), you’re out. You then admit defeat on social media with the hashtag #Whamageddon and wait for your friends to suffer the same fate. Note: The rules prohibit you from “deliberately sending your friends to Whamhalla.”

9. “Last Christmas” finally charted in America following George Michael’s death in 2016.

Back in 1984, “Last Christmas” wasn’t released as a commercial single in the United States, and therefore it wasn’t eligible for the Billboard Hot 100 chart. However, Billboard changed its rules in 1998, and in the wake of George Michael’s unexpected death on Christmas Day 2016, the song finally made its Hot 100 debut. In December 2018, it reentered the charts and peaked at #25.

10. George Michael was involved in 2019's Last Christmas movie.

November 2019 saw the release of Paul Feig's Last Christmas, a romantic comedy inspired by the song starring Game of Thrones's Emilia Clarke. Producer David Livingstone came up with the idea while George Michael was still alive, and when he pitched the pop star on the project, he was given the greenlight—with one condition: Michael stipulated that actress and author Emma Thompson write the movie. Thompson co-authored the story and the screenplay, and she even wound up playing a supporting role.