Monday, February 13, 2012

Four Love Stories for Valentine's Day

Check out these headlines from 1912:

  • Will Wed Former Convict: Stenographer Defies Family for Love of Man Just Liberated
  • Won by False Love Letters: Grum, Uneducated, Got Friend to Write Miss Snell — Marriage Annulled
  • Loved and Kills Wife of Another: Then Benjamin Freed, Real Estate Broker, Shoots Himself in Mrs. Silverman’s Home

And we thought the National Enquirer and TMZ were bad. These century-old headlines are nearly as slanderous and the stories as tawdry as many articles in today's scandal sheets. 

Yet for all their hearsay, there's a good deal of charm and humor found in many love stories of yesterday. Below are my four favorite 1912 New York Times “love stories” — just in time for Valentine’s Day.

$500 Verdict for Actress: Fifty Love Letters Read in Court Net Her $10 Apiece
Hattie Hart, a Cleveland actress, was awarded in court $10 apiece for every love letter written to her by Captain Abram M. Cheeks, a retired Ohio River showman, oil operator and gold prospector. Miss Hart, 25, had sued Capt. Cheeks, 65, for $50,000, claiming a breach of promise of marriage. While he admitted falling in love with the young woman when she was playing on the showboat, Sunny South, he claimed he never proposed. (Don't you love their names!)

Loves the Best Man Best: Georgia Beauty Jilts Gilbert for Sullivan, and Elopes in Gilbert’s Auto. The headline tells the whole story and, nope, not that Gilbert and Sullivan. Said the groom, “I congratulate myself I didn’t get her. I got off lucky. I hope they will return my auto in good condition.”

Reunited by Her Novel: Woman Writer’s Confession in Her Book Brings Back Man She Loved. Seems a young woman refused to marry the man she loved “because of a certain incident in her past,” which she wouldn’t confess for fear he’d marry her in “chivalrous pity.” Much later, he read a review of a novel she had written based on her life and he knew it held her secret. Smitten all over again, he tracked her down in Spain, where they renewed their love. The article announced their upcoming marriage. (Sounds like a perfect made-for-TV love story. Lifetime, are you listening?)

But this is my absolute favorite:

Has a Surfeit of Love: Chicago Husband Flees from Home to Dodge Affectionate Wife
In the Court of Domestic Relations, the husband complained that his wife was not content to “caress him” and often followed him to his office. The judge declared, “No wife ought to interfere with her husband’s business by following him around. On the other hand, a husband ought to jolly his wife as much as possible.” 

Happy Valentine's Day. Oh, and may your love never make the papers.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Leap Year's Most Eligible Bachelors, Part 2

LONG AGO, A LEAP YEAR TRADITION ENTITLED WOMEN TO PURSUE MEN. While both sexes are on fairly even romantic ground these days, that was not true a century ago. Indeed, women interested in marriage had to protect their reputations, follow social mores and abide their family wishes. Thus, Leap Year opened up opportunities not always available.
In my previous post, I featured highlights from an article that ran in the St. Thomas Daily Times in 1888—another leap year. The gossipy reporter celebrated Ottawa's eligible bachelors, detailing their various attributes—looks, prospects, horses and dispositions—for single women interested in the pursuit.
Just three days later, this intrepid writer reported on the progress of the city's single ladies: "The list is a success," the writer boasts. "Already 'progress' is reported in several cases that have heretofore been considered hopeless, and negotiations are pending which will result in bringing together—till death do them part—two souls with but a single thought, two hearts as one." Then the reporter tells single women not to "despair. . . there are lots more eligible." Check out six of the bachelors from the second list below.

James Brodrick: clothier. Girls, the one who is fortunate enough to get him will get a jewel. He is pleasant and affable, besides being good-looking. Several accomplished young ladies, in this and other cities, who know a good thing when they see it, have laid all sorts of traps, but "Jim" has cleverly evaded them. Too busy with his business.
Sam Bowlby: assistant chief of the Fire department is well qualified to adorn the "eligible." He is a little past 30, stands about five feet ten, and his face is adorned by a heavy mustache. Sam is very popular among a large circle of acquaintances, but heretofore he has been rather too busy to give much attention to female society. Likes to play whist even better than to say his prayers.
George Burns: captain, is a strikingly handsome young gentleman with a military bearing which comes of long training in the ranks of the 25th. He is about 25 years of age, and has a vivacious, genial temperament which makes him very popular among his acquaintances. He is by no means averse to female society, and wouldn't be very difficult to "corral" if the pursuer were a beautiful and attractive young lady.
R.J. Dick: is recognized as one of the nattiest men in the city, dresses in exceedingly good taste, sports a solitaire on his little finger, and enjoys driving behind a fast horse. Like the majority of men of his calling, is fond of the opposite sex, but thus far has escaped Cupid's dart.
J.G. Joiner: is probably one of the most distinguished bachelors in St. Thomas. Though of diminutive stature, he is a Chesterfield in gallantry and toilet. He has long been waiting for a fair mistress and the ladies are all agreed that one ought to have married him long ago. It would be a crime to say that Mr. Joiner is in his forties—his locks of jet, rosy cheeks and languishing brown eyes would resent such an imputation. But John George has been a young man a long time and can't be much longer.
John Whale: artist, carries his 36 years easily, a shining, bright light in society and basks in the smiles of fortune as well as those of eligible young ladies and designing mammas. He has never had his affections centered upon any feminine creations except one from his own brush and is as fancy free as a group of still life.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Leap Year's Most Eligible Bachelors, 1888

This postcard poked fun at the leap-year tradition.
Happy leap year—and happy leap month! 

Have you seen that Amy Adams' flick, Leap Year? It hearkens back to an old tradition and privilege extended to ladies: Every four years, rather than waiting for that shy bachelor you've got your eye on to pop the question, you could do the asking—a special dispensation available only during leap year. (Of course, no need for a leap-year excuse these days!)

In 1888, another leap year, the St. Thomas Daily Times, an Ottawa newspaper, thoughtfully alerted single female readers of the city's most eligible bachelors: The gossipy writer comments (sometimes gushing) on their looks, their prospects, their horses and their dispositions. To whom would you take a shining? The lawyer? The bookshop owner? The guy with "the duck of a mustache"? Do tell!

Henry Borbridge: loves a fine horse and has one, is a keen sportsman, a good looker, an inveterate joker, and the kind of a man the ladies are wont to set their caps for, but Henry seems disposed to trot single through the race of life.
J.D. Baikie: has so long surveyed the feminine form that he is believed to have become hardened to all blandishments. Likes a game of euchre and is a good player. Very desirable catch if he can be induced to enter the meshes of the net.
D. Coughlin: a lawyer, is said to be heart free as yet, affable and genial. Would not allow pet dogs in the house as he is popularly supposed to have an aversion to dogs.
Albert Couse: another lover of a stylish nag, a quiet, easygoing chap, who will be hard to induce to tie with his tongue a knot he cannot untie with his teeth.
Chas. Duncombe, M.D.: was 23 last leap year, and must be near 26 now. He belongs to a couple of societies, has a pleasant practice, and a good bank account, but he has escaped so many fishers of men in the past that he may not be hooked this year.
Andrew Grant: deputy sheriff, helps manage the sheriff's office, has a duck of a mustache, is a slick dresser and has dodged many a cap set for him. 
W.R. Jackson: jeweler, is about 24 years of age, genial and polite in his address, and rather slender as to his physical makeup. He is affectionate in his disposition, and the Times does not hesitate to guarantee that he will make an agreeable companion for the young lady who is so fortunate as to gain his hand.
George King: aged about 40, has seen the world and would make a husband for some good-looking girl who is a good listener and could occasionally bear to hear the same story twice, even if a trifle long. He has never been in love, never has the blues, and is just as cheerful the next morning after a wine supper as the man who wasn't there.
Edward Lindop: flour merchant, has matrimonial intentions if he should happen to meet a right party, not too old, would make a good husband.
W.H. Murch: owns a bookstore, has traveled in Germany, France, Switzerland and elsewhere, and enjoys an income that would keep a small family circle in nice style.
Colin McLarty, M.D.: is liable to lose his heart at any time, although it is at present claimed to be bulletproof. Colin is the "some" of jollity and good nature. Mrs. C. McLarty will not be an unfortunate woman.
Fred Swenson: is a shining mark for the designing female. Still hovering about the early thirties, handsome, stylish, of fine figure, good habits and manners, he is a star in society. Fred is simply incredible when togged out in his paraphernalia and has that peculiarly winning way which so unerringly strikes a tender cord in the feminine heart. He has independent means and is the envied possessor of brilliant prospects and should be garnered by some worthy fair one before the year of special grace expires.
J.J. Teetzel: drives a spanking team of pacers, enjoys a good business and is liable to make some fair one happy any day.