The Daily Beast ran an interesting article yesterday on how personal ads date back to at least Colonial times. Here is an excerpt:
On April 23, 1722, the latest edition of the New England Courant hit the streets of Boston. There on page two, nestled in between an article about smallpox inoculation and news of a new Russian translation of the Bible, could be found the following ad:
--Any young Gentlewoman (Virgin or Widow) that is minded to dispose of her self in Marriage to a well-accomplish’d young Widower, and has five or six hundred pounds to secture to him by Deed of Gift, she may repair to the Sign of the Glass-Lanthorn in Steeple-Square, to find all the encouragement she can reasonably desire.
The author was a 16-year-old Benjamin Franklin, whose older brother edited the Courant. He composed it as a joke, thus becoming the first in a long line of people to poke fun at personal ads. It also reveals is that, as early as the 1720s, personal ads were already a familiar enough feature of city life to merit satire.
In the 18th century, the huge majority of personal ads were placed by men in their mid-twenties. What they wanted in a wife was youth and money (whereas today, youth alone is the top priority, according to a number of recent studies of human mate choice). In 1759, for example, one young buck announced to readers of the Boston Evening Post his desire to meet:
--Any young Lady, between the Age of Eighteen and Twenty-three, of a middling Stature; brown Hair; regular Features, and with a lively brisk Eye; of good Morals, and not tinctur’d with any Thing that may sully so distinguishable a Form; possessed of 3 or 400l., entirely at her own Disposal, and where there will be no necessity of going thro’ the tiresome Talk of addressing Parents or Guardians for their Consent...
for the rest go here: