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1884 Dating Service
By Diane DeBlois
Two 1884 letters from a Utica, New York traveling salesman to a "Miss Lola" are evidence of epistolary "dating" via some sort of 'personals' advertising.
Apparently, Lola of Cooperstown, New York, had responded to a notice that indicated he was a single young man living at 323 Genesee St. And her education has him somewhat intimidated: "your good grammar in your letter was so far ahead of any other letter I received." He responds to one of her questions: "I am not a German, I am and I am proud of it, an American born of English parents, I all ways wished to speak and write in German; but if my sister could take my place she could for she knows more in one week than I do in one year, as she is a graduate of Vassar."
He is reluctant to give her his name, and signs with "Marie Stuart" - the brand of face powder he sells (an 1885 advertisement declared it to be free of mineral tint). He is coy, too, about sending a photograph of himself, afraid that Lola might show it to others and "some of your lady friend may have the laugh on me and that I could not stand." He asks, though, for her photograph, promising to show it to no one, and to return one of himself.
He tries to give some good, if dramatic, account of himself: "I am poor but try to be honest...you wished to get some dude on a string and in place you have got a hard working young man who could tell you as much about Chicago, as Cooperstown or in fact any 26 states in the Union, in fact I am a drummer, but remember give me a drummer on honor than the word of any other class of men on earth, let a lady place herself under the care of one of them in the cars or any where after being introduced by a friend and he would lose his life in her cause."