Posts Tagged ‘personal ads from the 19th century’

Sex ads placed in 19th century newspapers

November 13, 2011

In the 20th century, they ran in the back pages of alternative weeklies like The Village Voice, and today, they clog up Craigslist and other online sites.

But in the 1870s, respectable newspapers were the only venue for sex-related ads, like the one above, arranging a meeting between semi-anonymous partners.

“Many of these advertisements are inserted by notorious roues, and others are from women of the town,” writes James D. McCabe in his 1872 guidebook Lights and Shadows of New York Life, where reproductions of the ads appear.

“Women wishing to meet their lovers, or men their mistresses, use these personal columns,” he added.

There must have been some degree of public outcry about these ads. McCabe quotes the New York World, apparently defending their placement:

“The cards of courtesans and the advertisements of houses of ill-fame might as well be put up in the panels of street cars.”

“If the public permits a newspaper to do it for the consideration of a few dollars, why make the pretense that there is anything wrong in the thing itself? If the advertisement is legitimate, than the business must be.”

Newspapers also published the 19th century versions of Craigslist’s Missed Connections.

The 1870s version of Missed Connections ads

June 24, 2011

Think those missed connections/I saw you personals are only as old as Craigslist or the back page of the Village Voice?

Nah. They were around at least 140 years ago, according to a city guidebook called Lights and Shadows of New York Life, published in 1872, which reproduced several in its pages.

The book detailed the appeal of the “personals” printed in the first column of an unnamed city paper:

“Very many persons are inclined to smile at these communications, and are far from supposing that these journals are making themselves the mediums through  which assignations and burglaries, and almost every disreputable enterprise are arranged and carried on.”

So then as now, these missed connections-type ads don’t always have an innocent, romantic aim.

But apparently many did. “If a lady allows her face to wear a pleasant expression while glancing by the merest chance at a man, she is very apt to find some such personal as the following addressed to her in the next morning’s issue of the paper referred to.”

So what are the odds that any of these men hooked up with the lady they were looking for? I guess we’ll never know.