Love and courtship have always been favorite subjects for readers of pioneer Idaho newspapers. This bit of advice appeared in the Idaho Tri-weekly Statesman on May 12, 1868: “A bewitching little widow gives the following recipe to ‘trap’ a fellow. Invite a nice young man to tea, keep him laughing every five minutes during the evening, let him have six kisses, and you’ll be his wife before 20 similar operations. It was never known to fail when properly administered. A neat ankle and a low neck dress rather help the matter.”
Mark Twain was often quoted in frontier newspapers that picked up his witty and ironic observations from other publications. In March 1867, this bit of irony appeared in a letter to the Missouri Democrat of St. Louis: “Women, go your ways! Seek not to beguile us of our imperial privileges. Content yourself with your little feminine trifles — your babies, your benevolent societies and your knitting — and let your natural bosses do the voting. Stand back — you will be wanting to go to war next. We will let you teach school as much as you want to, and we will pay you half wages for it, too, but beware, we don’t want you to crowd us too much.”
When the sheriff of Owyhee County married in October 1897, the Delamar Nugget reported it like this: “Sheriff Crocheron has made a most important capture in the person of Mrs. Millie Walston of Reynolds. The sheriff had the prisoner arraigned before Judge Handy, where she pleaded guilty of love for the complaining witness and was promptly sentenced for life and placed under the sheriff’s keeping.” (The bride was a niece of Sen. Leland Stanford of California, for whom Stanford University is named.) A biography of Mr. and Mrs. Asbury B. Crocheron notes that, “Their hospitable home in Silver City is a favorite resort with their many friends.”
Carrie Chapman Catt, a leader in the battle to secure the vote for women, is credited with this observation: “The trouble with Mrs. Blank is that she fairly worships her husband. She thinks him absolutely perfect. Why, the woman actually believes the parrot taught him to swear.”
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The Idaho Work observed in August 1879, “Kissing is like eating soup with a fork — you soon find that you can’t get enough of it.”
The Statesman treated readers to a set of riddles about love and courtship in April 1890: “Which was the longest day of Adam’s life? The one on which there was no Eve.” “Why are ships always called ‘She’? Because the rigging costs more than the hull.” “If 32 is the freezing point, what is the squeezing point? Two in the shade.” “Why are kisses like the creation? They are made of nothing, and God knows they are good.”
A letter to the Statesman from Mullan stated, “All angels are girls but all girls are not angels, and if Mullan could be blessed with a dozen more smiling maidens, whether they are angels or not, the monotony of the life of many an old bachelor would be relieved by the rose bud garden of girls.”
The Statesman took note of a change in women’s fashion in January 1878. The latest style in dresses called for hems to be 3 inches off the floor. “This will mean that some new method will have to be devised to keep the sidewalks swept clean.”
We’ll close today with these quips from Twain: “What would men be without women? Scarce, sir, mighty scarce.” “Man was made at the end of the week’s work, when God was tired.” And, “The partitions of the houses were so thin we could hear the women occupants of adjoining rooms changing their minds.”
Arthur Hart writes this column on Idaho history for the Idaho Statesman each Sunday. Email email@example.com.