history roundup – love edition


Mission San Diego de Alcala, 1848 [Engelhardt, 1920]


In the course of my day job as an archivist, I like to collect entertaining quotes to share with my friends. I’ve posted about the glory of diaries before.

For one project currently underway, I’ve been looking for examples of love and courtship. And YOU GUYS. I am digging up some wonderful stuff.

The oldest one so far, a very hastily performed marriage at the San Diego Mission in 1822:

On the 3rd of June, 1822, in the barracks of the Mazatlan soldiers, and as he was prostrated in bed with a very grave illness of which he died the following day, I married Juan Bazquez, a soldier of the company of Mazatlan to Maria Rita Cañedo, who had had a child and who had exchanged the promise to marry. In such critical circumstances, attending to the easing of the conscience and the consolation of the sick man, the honor of the woman, and the legitimation of the issue, and the consent of the parents of the woman having been given (for she was underage), the permission of the Chief of the said soldier, and witnesses examined in order to arrive at the truth of there not being any impediments to their marriage, I married them according to the order (rule) of N.S.M. Church. Witnesses were Ygnacio Ruiz, married to Benedicta Valencia, leather-jacket soldier of the Presidio of San Diego, and Mariana Arce, also a leather-jacket soldier at the same Presidio.

In 1898, things go wrong for a 41-year-old cowboy Isaac when he proposes to 18-year-old Edith, as tersely implied in his daily diary. (But really, Isaac, you don’t have a stable job, and you just live on the property of whoever hires you each year. Also, you have a gambling problem).

April 12: “Edeth Refused my favor. Went over to Mr. W.J. Mulkins. Got wagon & horses to move my things to W.J. Mulkins Place…”

April 15: “Burnt up cards, Never to Play Again.”

April 17: “Writen two Letters one to Miss Edeth Littlepage, Ballena, one to W.C.L. Ballena. Did Not Send Edeth Letter. Burnt it up.”

[Cut to mid-September, he’s totally gambling again.]

On the schmoopier, more romantic end of the spectrum, we’ve got a love letter written in 1911 from a man to his girlfriend who is out of town for a couple days visiting her mom:

My own little darling Babe,

Well dear it sure does seem strange here, all marning I have been thinking, well I will call Babe up and see how she is and if she wants anything, but no little Babe to call up. I am lonely and want my little girl – tonight will be a hard one, to have to go to bed without a goodnight kiss. Thank the stars it will be only a few days and wont I be glad when Monday comes so I can start. For every hour then I will be getting nearer to my darling…

And finally, an unromantic example (which is tangentially related to courtship in terms of being hit on– close enough for me!), I like this quote from the book Slacks and Calluses: Our Summer in a Bomber Factory by Constance Bowman and Clara Marie Allan. It was written in 1944 by a pair of schoolteachers who spent their summer break doing war work. They discovered that walking to and from the factory in pants got them a lot of unwanted attention:

It was a great shock to C.M. and me to find that being a lady depended more upon our clothes than upon ourselves. We had always gone on the theory that the only girls men tried to pick up were the ones who looked as if they could be picked up… This summer we found out that it was not our innate dignity that protected us from unwelcome attentions, but our trim suits, big hats, white gloves, and spectator pumps. Clothes, we reflected sadly, make the woman—and some clothes make the man think that he can make the woman.

Good stuff. Some time next week we are going to dig into a more modern era. I’ve got an index to a local arts and culture magazine and boy howdy but there are some promising-looking listings in the index. By which I mean, early descriptions of the Internet:

1977: “Masculine Survival Course (Dating)”
1980: “Selectrocution, Singles Bars, and Computer Dating”
1986: “Automobile Romance Dating Service”
1987: “Computer Dating for Seniors”

And more. So much more.