Today, if we have specific needs or questions, we can usually find a specific forum or website to help us get hooked up with whatever we need. A century ago, there was only the Classifieds section of your town’s newspaper—tiny blocks of print disguising entire lives and stories behind very few words. Here are some of those stories that we hope met with a happy ending. We hope:
1. That Lula was all settled up at Woolworths.
“To Whom It May Concern: Lula Dumont, having left my bed and support, I will not be responsible for any debts contracted by her. - F.E. Dumont” 1920
We hope that Lula’s next partner valued the virtue of an open marriage as deeply as she did. You can’t put chains on love, man.
2. That Exactly This Happened and Nothing Else.
“Is there someone who would raise and have a clean young boy of 12 educated, for a home companion?” 1907
Howdy. I’m Chris Hansen. Why don’t you come along and set a spell over there on the divan?
3. That It Was the Meet-Cute Story They Told Their Great-Grandchildren.
“Will some nice girl take Christmas dinner -at any hotel she chooses- with a decent young man; a stranger and alone in the city” 1907
If there isn’t a Reese Witherspoon movie with this premise one should be made immediately.
4. That Mrs. Verhilla Finds Justice
“GIRLS- Please return purse taken from lavatory of Circle Theater, as you are known. Police have your description and there will be a warrant out if not returned. – Mrs. Verhilla” 1920
May God have mercy on your souls, girls. Because Mrs. Verhilla will not.
5. That the Lady in Question Will Not Remain Unsupported for Long
“Lost- Two unfinished linen brassieres. Kindly leave at Washington hotel. Reward." 1907
From what I’ve seen early brassieres were two handkerchiefs tied together with twine. Good riddance, honey. Stick with the corset for another decade or so.
6. That Room 24 Held All the Delights it Promised
“Ladies, if you want to go to a very select place for your electric treatments and massage, go to room 24 in Marquam House. You will get the best attention” 1907
Hysteria cures weren’t all bad.
7. That a Certain Gentleman Will Realize His Oversight
"Lost: Will the Gentleman who occupied my room Tuesday pm please return jewelry taken? No questions asked.” 1907
Come on Wilbur. We both know you looked ridiculous in that lavaliere.
8. That this is Not Nearly as Depressing as it Sounds
“I have two children, boy and girl, ages 10 and 12, that I would like to leave with a nice family for a year: want good neighborhood and where proper care will be given.” 1897
A parent who spends 5 whole cents to procure the safety of his children can’t be completely negligent.
9. That All These Girls Have Been Thoroughly Briefed on the Mann Act
"Wanted: Girls. Must be pretty, small, and 16 years of age. Apply today at Los Angeles Theatre Box Office” 1911
Nothing suspicious, seedy, or potentially criminal here.
10. That…ehh. Sorry buddy. This isn’t going to end well.
“For Sale- Calf with two legs. Call or write quick: make offer.” 1909
Write quick? It’s not like the poor thing is going anywhere.
11. That Ray Had a Reason
“Ray- good luck to you in your coming explanation. Dollie.” 1909
Shame on your suspicious mind, Dollie. It just so happens Ray remembered to have a photograph taken of himself next to the Guatemalan children whose school he’s been building for the past two months.
12. That G and B were only dating.
"G- You are, as I thought, a sad mistake. –B”
Jeez Mom. So I didn’t make Varsity. You didn’t need to take out an entire ad.
13. That the Realization of Love and Family are Not Exclusive to People Over 5 Feet tall.
“Am 40, 3ft 11 in high, weigh 175 lbs, best health, brown hair, brown eyes and mustache, erect figure, regular features; good business, wish the acquaintance of little woman with common sense. Object: Matrimony.”
An extremely prudent use of a personal ad. In an era where differences were not always celebrated, this gentleman stood to meet more potential willing brides than by any other means available to him.
14. Doesn’t Matter how it Ended. The Joy was in the Journey.
“Wanted: Ten Monkeys, Talking Parrots, and Canaries.” 1900
That was a weekend no one ever forgot.
15. No Joke. Just Really, Really Wishing for a Happy Ending.
In my research I thought I’d hit a goldmine of peculiar, personal classifieds when I stumbled across a 1906 copy of The San Francisco Call. But what appeared to be a laundry list of strayed husbands and cryptic codes turned into something much more tragic on closer examination of the date.
“News Wanted of Mrs. R J Pringle by her husband.” “Sarah Rockel, come to Sullivan’s. Am much worried.” “Daisy- Bring Mother to Port Richmond.”
These ads and dozens more like them were placed on April 21, 1906, three days after the Great San Francisco Earthquake demolished 80 percent of the city and killed 3000 people. Here’s hoping many more were reunited with their loved ones.