Business for matrimonial publications between 1870 and 1900, increased substantially whenever stories of successful mail-order connections were made. Editors for periodicals such as Matrimonial News and the New Plan Company shared happy ever after tales with daily newspapers in hopes they would print the romantic adventures of correspondence couples.
Several such stories appeared in newspapers like the Waterloo Daily Courier in Waterloo, Iowa and the North Adams Evening Transcript in North Adams, Massachusetts around Valentine’s Day in 1905. Advertisements around the mail-order articles consisted of flower shops, jewelry stores, and chocolate makers. According to a post in the February 6, 1905, edition of the Waterloo Daily Courier, readership for the paper doubled on romantic holidays like Saint Valentine’s Day and Christmas. “Whenever mail-order love stories are printed, and particularly those that present a high view of matrimony and the fun couples could have in a happy marriage,” the editorial staff at the Courier noted, “the circulation grows.”
An article entitled “Would She Bother Him?” which ran on Sunday, February 10, 1905, was an example of a story that generated significant business for the Iowa paper.
“Martin Perkins, aged forty-one, and Eliza Gulless, aged thirty-seven, sat before an open wood fire, he holding his hands in his lap, she knitting. For two years the couple corresponded via mail then came the day Mr. Perkins asked Miss Gulless to come west. Miss Gulless, now Mrs. Perkins, agreed. Mr. Perkins resided in the area of Bisbee, Arizona. The future Mrs. Perkins left her parents and siblings behind in Ohio to join him. The two met through a mail-order advertisement.
Twice a week for ten months the pair met. On Wednesday they were together at the church for choir practice and Saturday evenings were spent at Miss Gulless’s home talking and getting to know each other further. Mr. Perkins lived with his mother and half the people in the Bisbee area said it would be a shame for him to marry and leave his mother alone, the other half maintained he was morally bound to marry Miss Gulless.
During the ten months they spent together Mr. Perkins was endeavoring to make up his mind that it would be safe for a man of his confirmed habits to enter matrimony. He sat with Miss Gulless engaged in the same occupation every week-holding his hands with the occasional twirling of his thumbs-while Miss Gulless knitted. But at last, he had come to the determination to ask her to become his wife.
“Miss Liza,” he began, “marriage is a fearful thing when it doesn’t turn out well.”
“I think very likely it must be.”
“They say marriages late in life seldom turn out well.”
“Yes, they say when a man has passed forty, he’s set in his ways and a woman always around, interfering with him, is very hard to bear.”
He took out his handkerchief and wiped his temples as though the little picture he had drawn indicated hot weather. Miss Gulless seemed more than usually absorbed in her knitting and made no reply for some time. Then she said softly: “If a man gets a sensible woman, she wouldn’t interfere with him much.”
“I’ve thought often of that. I didn’t believe you, for instance, would make it hard for a man.”
“It’s very nice of you to say so,” replied Miss Gulless bending over her work.
“Then you’re mighty steady. Some women are flighty. You can never pin them down to anything. If you was to tell me, you would do a thing I wouldn’t have to argue it with you all over again. I could rely on your doing it same as if it was done.”
“I hope I would,” replied Miss Gulless meekly.
“Now, I tell you, Miss Liza, there ain’t no other woman that lived that I’d take a risk on. I’ve known you for close to three years and the man who gets you will get a jewel. I would like to be that man. I often think how wonderful it would be to have you flittin about like a yellow bird among the branches. Will you do it, Miss Liza?”
“Do what?” she asked in a scarcely audible tone.
She bent lower and lower without reply. He went to her, folded her in his arms, and she whispered “Yes.” She kissed him gently on his cheek and added, “I would never be a bother to you.”
“I have every confidence of that, Miss Liza,” Mr. Perkins nodded.”
In June 1904, Mr. Perkins mother died from complications with her heart. Miss Gulless and Mr. Perkins were wed on November 18, 1904.
The North Adams Evening Transcript had similar good fortune with sales of the February 10, 1906, edition of their paper. The article entitled “Matchmaking” was so well received the newspaper sold out and editors of the Transcript were forced to issue a second printing.
According to the Transcript article, Joshua Wilson had spent the evening with several friends in the gold mining area of Coloma, California. It seemed to him he had talked nonstop about the mail-order bride he had been writing to that lived in Maine. In the spring of 1891, Wilson had placed an ad in the matrimonial page of a newspaper and Cydra Davidson, the daughter of a physician, had written expressing an interest in him. She asked if they might exchange letters and photographs. For more than a year Wilson and Davidson wrote one another. On May 10, 1892, the mail-order groom asked for Davidson’s hand in marriage and promised to be a husband she could depend on. Davidson accepted and within a short time of the proposal made the pilgrimage to meet the man who would be her spouse.
Cydra Davidson and Joshua Wilson were to meet for the first time in person at a wedding reception being held at a home next to the Emmanuel Church in Coloma. At the conclusion of the service Wilson filtered out of the church with the others in attendance and made his way to the reception.
“The drawing room was crowded,” the article quoted Wilson. “I looked about for Miss Davidson and spied her in the far corner. By slow small stages I made my way toward her. She marked my approach with a wistful face, and when I was close made room for me. Poor nervous thing! We shook hands and I noted a tender light in her eyes.”
“How hot is it here,” she asked after we introduced ourselves formally.
“These gatherings can be very warm. Shall we take our conversation outside?” I suggested. We slowly made our way around the people standing in the room until we finally made it to the door and exited.
“How pleasant it is out here,” Miss Davidson offered.
“So cool,” I responded.
Conversation was slow to get started. We were both careful and Miss Davidson sheepish.
“You are a fine looking woman,” I told her respectfully.
“How glad I am to hear it,” Miss Davidson replied. “I’m happy to be here. The object of our first love is so rarely the person to make us really happy,” she told me.
“First love is the only love,” said I.
A great silence fell upon us. I knew it was my moment to ask her to tell her how much I loved her. I reached for her hand once, I spoke the words, and she returned the sentiment then we smiled at each other.
The Transcipt article noted that Wilson and Davidson were wed on June 22, 1892. The pair was married for more than sixty years. Readers craved stories about couples who found one another using unconventional methods. Happy-ever-after tales of mail-order brides and grooms helped make the mail-order industry popular and gave single men and women who longed for a partner hope that such a life was possible.