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Dating using ad’s, similar to those we place on an online dating site, is not as shiny and new as you may think, in fact its pretty old school. Sure, the rise of the internet is within all our lifetime but where did online dating get its roots from? ‘Classified – The secret history of the personal column’ a book written by H.G.Cocks gives us an interesting insight into classifieds over the years and you may be a little surprised to find we aren’t that modern at all! The book is a must but if you don’t have time then here are some key dates in history:
Approx. 50 years after the invention of the newspaper is the first reference to an ad being used to find a husband or wife in the agony column of ‘Athenian Mercury’.
Advertising for a husband or wife became common practise; so much so that in 1777 it is reported a young lady said “the mode of advertising is become too general”. Throughout the 1800’s the use of ad’s continued.
By the First World War things were moving on and journalist Alfred Barrett thought that small ads could be extended to those looking for companionship, soon advertising for ‘chums’ was the new and modern thing to do.
1914 - 1916
Lonely soldiers begin placing ads for pals and ‘perhaps more’. Alfred Barrett founded ‘The Link’ in 1915 which was advertised as ‘the only monthly practically devoted to love interests’. Ads included this one from 1919:
'Bachelor Girl (London, W) well-educated, loves books, sunshine, laughter, cinemas, detests Mrs Grundy, orthodoxy, and human cabbages, wants ‘really truly’ men chums, unconventional, alive'.
By 1916 papers had been warned off ads from soldiers as it meant too much post and was taking away from soldiers focus.
‘Hidden messages’ were at times included in the ads, particularly for men to meet other men and Alfred Barrett at The Link was found guilty of ‘corrupting public morals, and of aiding and abetting his advertisers in a conspiracy to procure acts of indecency’ and received 2 years with hard labour.
First reported murder linked to the classifieds, a young woman Irene Wilkins was murdered after responding to a fake job advert she saw on the classifieds.
Mary Oliver and Heather Jenner, two 25 year old women revamped the world of matrimony agencies by establishing a modern and classy agency. Business boomed.
Pop up magazines with ads for those wanting to explore sexually started to appear highlighting a new era of sexual independence.
Mid to late 1900’s
The concept of online dating was born and in 1994 Match.com was launched.
More social networking, online dating sites and dating companies you can count!
There you have it, a whirlwind tour of the classifieds over the year, proof that for hundreds of years people have found dating and finding ‘the one’ just as challenging as we do today so turn to advertising the thing they know best....themselves!
Credit for this post goes to H.G Cocks book on ‘Classifieds, the secret history of the personal column’ which can be brought on Amazon.