Saturday, May 13, 2023

What's A Mail-Order Bride To Do?

By Kimberly Grist

By the 1800s, mostly male settlers answered the call to head west following stories that painted a picture of a land of milk and honey. A shortage of females developed as they searched for gold and plowed up the prairies building shelters out of sod. While back east, the opposite problem occurred. In many cases, answering an ad to become a mail-order bride was a literal ticket for a chance at a new life. Is it any wonder that advertisements like this became common?

Courtesy of Glacier National Park Photo Archives, photo HPF 9871.

In 1851, One California Paper pleaded:
“We want an emigration of respectable females to California: of rosy-cheeked ‘down east’ Yankee girls—of stout ‘hoosier’ and ‘badger’ lasses, who shall be wives to our farmers and mechanics and mothers to a generation of ‘Yankee Californians.’ ” Quoted by Chris Enss in his book Hearts West: True Stories of Mail

What's a Mail-Order Bride to do?

American Etiquette Rules of Politeness, written by Walter Houghton in 1883, gave lots of advice, and some specifically included travel: “There is no situation in which a lady is more exposed than when she travels, and there is no position where a dignified, lady-like deportment is more indispensable and more certain to command respect.” Mr. Houghton also recommended carrying a sponge, tooth, nail brushes, and soap in an oilskin bag.

Sozodont for the Teeth and Breath advertisement, Warshaw Collection of Business Americana, Archives Center, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution

Historical Tidbit
William Addis designed the more modern toothbrush in England around 1780. The handle was carved from cattle bone, and the brush was made from pigs' hair. In 1844, the first 3-row bristle brush was designed. The first U.S. patent for a toothbrush was filed in 1857.

Traveling Tips-Stash the Cash
Another recommendation from the American Etiquette Rules of Politeness was to carry money in a strong pocket made in your upper petticoat, only reserving a small sum for incidental expenses in your dress pocket.

A pair of pockets from the early 19th century.

Safety First- Looking Beyond Mr. Houghton's Recommendations

Pocket Pistols
The pocket pistol, also known as the Queen Anne pistol, originated in the mid-17th century as a small, concealable coat or pocket pistol. This style was used during the 18th century, evolving from a weapon reserved for the wealthy to a common sidearm in broader use as more and more manufacturers made them by the start of the 19th century.

During the 18th century, wealthy travelers concealed small single-shot pistols in a coat pocket as protection from highwaymen. Overcoat pistols with a turn-off barrel were designed for women to carry in their muffs.

Boot pistol of the mid-Victorian era.

The Baby Dragoon
When tucked into a vest or coat pocket, a derringer would not produce any more of a bulge in one’s clothing than would a pocket watch. Some manufacturers marketed their small firearms directly to the ladies. In 1866, Charles Converse and Samuel Hopkins manufactured approximately 800 pistols and sold under the trade name of “Ladies Companion.”

Affectionately known as the "Baby Dragoon" and made without a loading lever, Colt turned out about 15,000 between 1847-1850, and the public loved them. This pocket model became the most successful of all of Colt’s percussion revolvers.

Multi-purpose Hatpins and Umbrellas
Not every Victorian woman possessed a firearm. But most well-dressed women possessed a hat and hatpin. Hatpins and umbrellas were also used in self-defense and as Weapons.

Laws were passed in America in 1908 that limited the length. By 1910 ordinances were passed requiring hatpins to be covered with tips.

Pictures from an article, "How to Defend Yourself," San Francisco Call, August 1904

New Release:
In my new release, our heroine is on the run and as nervous as a long-tailed cat on a porch filled with rocking chairs. Regarding travel, she'll follow her cousin's advice and ask to be seated next to another woman, preferably with children or a matronly appearance, and fade into the background.

A hopeless romantic, Abilene is on the run again, dreaming of her happily ever after- an understanding husband, a house in the country, and peace.
Sheriff Mark Joseph learned the hard way that love only leads to heartache and is not worth the risk. The last thing he needs is a wife. Long work hours with a healthy dose of danger are the best antidote to a broken heart.
Will Abilene find a way to penetrate the barriers of the sheriff’s heart?

Connect With Kimberly

"I believe you should come away refreshed and inspired after reading a book, an outlet, and an opportunity to relax and escape to a place where obstacles are met and overcome."

Fans of historical romance set in the late 19th century will enjoy stories combining, History, Humor, and Romance with an emphasis on Faith, Friends, and Good Clean Fun,



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  1. Thank you for your post today. There are some interesting things here that I wouldn't have thought of, like limiting the length of a hairpin!

  2. Hairpins were apparently quite the weapon. It brings to mind the phrase, "desperate times and measures."

  3. Hi Kimberly, I have six of my great grandmother's black glass bead hatpins. I researched hatpins and found out about the ruling to shorten the length. Your book sounds great! I love mail order bride stories. I'll have to pop over and get it!

    1. How awesome that you have your great grandmother's hatpins. I wish I had some of my grandmother's jewelry and hats that I recall playing dress up with. I would love to see a photo. Mail-order bride stories (Marriage of convenience) are my favorites!