“On November 29, 2014, I received a phone call from an officer of the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission named John Beardsley. He was investigating a missing boater, he said, and explained that some duck hunters had found a canoe and that my phone number had turned up among the gear in the boat. He wanted to know where it had come from — he hoped, in fact, that I might be the canoeist. It took me a second or two to realize that the boat must have been Dick Conant’s. It had come practically from Canada, I explained — from Plattsburgh, New York, 20 miles south of the border….
“I explained to Officer Beardsley that I was a journalist, and that I had written a short article (in this magazine) about Conant’s ambitious voyage [to Florida]….
“The canoe had been spotted floating upside down near the mouth of Big Flatty Creek, by a father who was fishing with his young boy and feared what they might discover if they drew their boat any closer. Big Flatty discharges into the not so flat brackish waters of Albemarle Sound, about 20 miles west of the Outer Banks….
“Among the canoe’s contents were 17 toothbrushes, three Louis L’Amour Western novels, a frying pan, a digital camera, and some soggy stapled papers, on the back of which I’d written my e-mail address and phone number, more than 400 miles up the coast….”
“Frank A. Abrams [a lawyer, author and inventor in Skyland, N.C.] believes that a 3¼-by-3-inch tintype he bought at Smiley’s Flea Market in Fletcher, N.C., in 2011 might depict both Billy the Kid and Pat Garrett, the sheriff who killed the notorious outlaw in Fort Sumner on July 14, 1881.
“Abrams said he believes the photo of five seated cowboys was taken Jan. 14, 1880, at the dual wedding of Pat Garrett to Apolinaria Gutierrez and Barney Mason to Juana Madril….
“ ‘If I’m right, this will be the only known picture of Billy the Kid with Pat Garrett,’ Abrams said last month in Albuquerque.
“Though Abrams says he’s not ‘advocating a position’ on the authenticity of the photo, he spent 10 days traveling to historic New Mexico sites linked to the Kid and Pat Garrett, and meeting with people familiar with the duo’s history. He said he’s now searching out ‘experts’ in photo recognition in hopes of proving his theory.
“A trio of renowned Old West historians, however, say Abrams has a daunting task ahead….”
On this day in 1960: On “The Andy Griffith Show” Sheriff Taylor ends a feud between two mountain families by arranging the marriage of their children. Andy tells Opie the Southern version of “Romeo and Juliet,” which had been on the flip side of his hit record, “What It Was Was Football.” This is the only episode to make use of material from Griffith’s repertoire as a standup comedian.
“The black-and-white photograph looks like yet another portrait of a bright-eyed, fresh-faced, all-American World War II recruit….
“What makes the photo historic? The young Marine pictured, Howard P. Perry [of Charlotte], was the first African-American Marine recruit in 167 years.
“Especially after America entered what became World War II, the rigid, proud, traditional Marines were particularly resistant [to enlisting blacks]. Major General Commandant Thomas Holcomb anticipated ‘a definite loss of efficiency in the Marine Corps if we have to take Negroes’….
“Nevertheless, the government appropriated $750,000 to build barracks at Montford Point, a satellite camp in North Carolina outside what in late 1942 became Camp Lejeune. Through 1949, nearly 20,000 African-American Marines would train there.
“Howard Perry reported for duty on August 26, 1942, followed by 12 more black volunteers that day…. [He] remained a private through 1944 and served as a cook in the 3371, 51st Defense Battalion….”
Finding that special someone has always been difficult. So difficult, in fact, that individuals frequently resort to creative means to help them secure a future husband or wife.
In the 19th century, many brave souls placed independent advertisements in local newspapers at the potential detriment of their social standing. Often these suitors would be over the respectable marriage age, widows, or individuals looking for a wealthy partner who possessed a peculiar set of characteristics. Young people often sought to meet members of the opposite sex without parental interference.
In his article “The cost of marriage and the matrimonial agency in late Victorian Britain,” Harry Cocks writes that these postings became so popular that matchmaking turned into a profitable industry. Following a trend in Victorian England, matrimonial agencies appeared in the United States. They were typically concentrated in urban centers, with fewer located in rural areas where probable matches were highly visible. Cocks states, the matrimonial agency was frequently seen as the “antidote to middle-class formality,” because the actors were independent instead of being instruments of their families or future husbands. However, traditionalists believed the practice was a disgrace to the institution of marriage.
Individuals frequently felt some shame at their unmarried status, and they feared further disgrace if others learned that they had turned to a matrimonial agency. Consequently, the businesses marketed themselves as being discrete in collecting correspondence from hopeful men and women and relaying them to prospective matches. They allowed women a certain degree of relative respectability and safety, something that was increasingly difficult in the modern city.
Although many of these agencies had their own publications with hundreds of ads, they also posted personal ads in local newspapers on behalf of their clients such as the one mentioned in an 1880 issue of the Charlotte Democrat.
There were frequently unsatisfied customers and tales of jilted respondents. The statistics reported in matrimonial advertisements were unverified, self-reported, and frequently overblown. The success of these businesses relied on people believing the false claim that “a man who advertises extensively must be wealthy, and whatever appears in print must be true.”
North Carolina newspaper editors and publishers discovered that horror stories about matrimonial agencies made good copy. The papers were filled with horror stories from those clients who they claimed had been duped. This article from an 1857 issue of the Western Democrat provides some commonly held ideas about the “transactions” conducted within matrimonial agencies, stating, “the grossest deception is…frequently practiced, and the principle of the whole business is undoubtedly, essentially corrupt.”Others compared matrimonial agencies to bogus loan offices financed by “the fees of the foolish.”
Many papers called for the abolition of such services, and published articles like this one from The Henderson Gold Leaf claiming that these agencies prayed on the weak, naive and desperate.
This 1906 article from the Semi-Weekly Messenger tells a familiar horror story of a fraudulent matrimonial agency. The agency’s beautiful widow with a $100,000 sugar plantation (roughly $2 million today) was searching for a husband. According to the article countless eager bachelors paid the $5.00 fee to secure an introduction with the woman who didn’t exist.
Although dishonesty was prevalent, there were surely some success stories, right?
Several new titles just added to “New in the North Carolina Collection.” To see the full list simply click on the link in the entry or click on the “New in the North Carolina Collection” tab at the top of the page. As always, full citations for all the new titles can be found in the University Library Catalog and they are all available for use in the Wilson Special Collections Library.