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5 Surprising Facts from the History of Mail-Order Brides
5 Surprising Facts from the History of Mail-Order Brides
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5 Surprising Facts from the History of Mail-Order Brides

Latest update: 2020-08-19
History of Mail-Order Brides

Men are looking for women when it is difficult to find a soulmate nearby. Today they are trying to find someone for romantic relationships, but hundred years ago, the goals were much bigger. In fact, those relationships have a long and rich history.

History of Mail-Order Brides

It may seem that mail order brides are phenomena of the 1990s, a result of the dot-com rage. The first mail order bride sites indeed appeared, allowing international singles to find each other for marriage. However, this term dates back to the 1800s.

Americans were obsessed with the Gold Rush and went to the American frontier to reap the benefits of it. They lacked nothing but women for marriage. So they started mailing churches in the East, requesting brides, as well as publishing personals in the media. Interested single women were sending them letters and photos.

Even before the Internet has become mainstream, there were such services offered to those who were longing for love. Although the service was popularised only in the 1980s, "mail-order bride" has been a widespread term for about three hundred years.

At its core, mail order brides isn’t something that has started 10 or 20 years ago. Nowadays it’s all the same but online – singles communicate via mail order bride sites, where they can see each others’ profiles with photos. Yet, there’s one huge difference. Thanks to globalization, it's easier for an international dating couple to meet before marrying. But back in the 19th-20th centuries, all the courtship was done exclusively through letters. That’s why brides started been called «mail order». Most of the time they could see their future husbands only right before getting married.

Almost the same happened to Lera Loeb, who seems to be the most famous mail order bride. In 2009, her story of a young single lady from Ukraine, who married a known American producer, conquered the media. Now anyone can become a successful mail order bride. Men seek wives everywhere – in Eastern Europe and Central Asia (they’re «bride gold mines» after the collapse of USSR), Asia, the EU, North America and Latin America.

Interesting Facts From Mail-Order Brides History

1. First mail order bride ads appeared after the discovery of gold in the Western frontier.

In the early 1800s the majority of single men migrated to the West dreaming to find gold and to become wealthy. The only issue they didn’t take into account was the lack of women in that area.

Men started writing letters to churches, hoping to find an available single lady ready to quit everything and go on an adventure.

2. Women placed their own ads.

Not only men were obsessed with finding a wife. Women also placed ads hoping to attract a prosperous man:

"A winsome miss of 22; very beautiful, jolly and entertaining; fond of home and children; from a good family; American; Christian; blue eyes; golden hair; fair complexion; pleasant disposition; play piano. Will inherit $10,000. Also, have means of $1,000. None but men of good education need to write from 20 to 30 years of age."

— excerpt from "Hearts West: True Stories of Mail Order Brides on the Frontier."

As all the correspondence was via paper mail, men commonly proposed before they actually met their brides. If the woman accepted, he paid her way to the west. As soon as someone noticed the rising demand in finding a husband among women, the so-called mail-order bride services appeared. Since the gold rush, international marriage has become a booming industry that helped a lot of singles find their soulmates.

3. The Telegraph as an early version of the modern online dating services.

The creation of the telegraph also played an important role in the marriage industry during the 19th century due to its high cost and poor reach of the wires. However, it did play an important role as a first step towards the development of the Internet and the online dating industry we know today.

Photography was another breakthrough technology that shaped international dating in the late 19th century. By the end of the 1970s, it was already possible to print and reproduce photos of high quality that enabled companies to publish books of Picture Brides that showcased the profiles of women who were willing to get married. Just like modern online dating sites Picture Brides contained photos and short profile description of women. They have become an instant hit and did not completely disappear until the rise of the Internet in the 90s.

4. Modern matchmaking services.

A personal ad has been the most effective way to meet a wife, and one of the most respectful matchmaking newspapers was The Matrimonial News. It charged the insane $1.5 per word (which is about $30 today) for ads from single men looking for women and vice versa. And the results were pretty good: about 3,000 marriages over the years.

Such newspapers were the beginning of modern online dating services with their own rules and regulations about the content and length of the posts.

5. Just like today, there were many scammers.

Although there was no privacy policy, all ads and letters were strictly sorted and distributed by employees, which kept names and other private information confidential. However, just as happens now, there were a lot of scammers who looked for naive people.

Nowadays, international dating sites and mail order bride agencies give an opportunity for men and women all over the world to connect and meet each other. Now there are much more options that help find your soulmate faster using advanced search algorithms, live chats, email and video chats. All this allows communicating in a very personal way.

Lauren Welch
Lauren Welch
Relationship Columnist

Lauren Welch is a leading dating advice expert for men and women. She has coached hundreds of couples around the world and consulted singles to help them get the love lives of their dreams.

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