At its core, “ mail order brides ” isn’t something that has started 10 or 20 years ago. 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 brides" has been a widespread term for about three hundred years.
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
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.
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.