It’s difficult to pinpoint the very first online dating website, but there’s no denying that one of the first hugely successful mainstream sites that rocked the lives of many was Match.com. Their site launched in April 1995 (that’s right – over 20 years ago) and completely revolutionized dating as we knew it. By October 1996, the website already had 100,000 registrations.
By today’s standards that might not seem like much, for the ‘90s, that was staggering. Match created big, angry waves, as the Internet was still in its formative years and online dating was a big, scary beast to many people, especially of older generations. People scoffed at the idea and feared for the lives of their daughters as they were obviously being abducted for ransom. Truthfully, these women were likely not telling their moms, or even their friends, that they were going on a date with someone they met online. No. Way. There was also the stigma that anyone who dated online was clearly not in their right mind, or dweeby beyond belief. But with time, all of that changed. To date, Match has over 4 million people visiting the site each month. Think about that for a moment, and the fact that this incredible website has quite literally changed the face of dating, forever. What’s even more mind-blowing is that Tinder, the popular app for iPhone and Android, has 26 million matches every single day and 10 billion matches since it’s inception.
But before Tinder, Match.com, or even the Internet, people were still finding ways of meeting each other, through their newspaper’s personals ads. Personal ads may seem like a fairly recent invention, but have actually been around since at least the 1700s.
Related-ish: How To Rule Online Dating Like The Queen You Are
The first ever personal ad (as far as we know)
Well, we think that this was the first ever. But we know for sure that a personal ad was placed in the Manchester Weekly Journal in 1727 by a woman named Helen Morrison. She was then committed to a mental institution for four weeks for committing the heinous act of attempting to find true love.
The search for a sugar daddy
University of Oregon Libraries
Miss Eliza Weeden. Miss. Eliza. Weeden. She states, “My future husband need not be a society lion or a man of talent and reputation. The money is the only material point.” All she wants is is a sugar daddy. If only she were around today, she could visit a myriad of sites for this specific need. Did Miss Weeden ever find the man of her dreams, or did she have to settle for someone lesser than? Perhaps we will never know. I would like to think that her ad received dozens of letters and that she was able to properly choose a husband of the most delicate quality.
I’d like to marry an orphan…please
Advertising For Love
“An American gentleman, thirty years of age, wishes to form the acquaintance of some American lady (an orphan preferred)…” Why an orphan? Is Knickerbocker hoping to avoid in-laws? Does he think an orphan will wait on him, hand and foot? She needs to be “not less than 15 nor more than 24 years of age, with a view to matrimony.” The gentleman (if we can call him that) goes on to list a vast array of necessary qualities but fails to mention anything at all about himself, except his age. Swipe left.
A gentleman and a scholar
Advertising For Love
The poetry of this ad is beautiful. “Matrimonial- the world is so full of poetry, beauty and glory, and I have no one to share it with me: no one to read with me my Shakespeare and Milton, to enjoy with me nature, art, letters, society; I seek, therefore, my other and better half, my complement and peer, equal, though not like…” Do people write like this on Match? Craigslist ads? I love the sincerity of this ad, and how much is said about both Mr. Christopher Leighton and the woman he seeks to marry.
“In a partner would wish the following: a Hydropath and Vegetarian in principle…” In 1855, vegetarianism and hydrotherapy were linked to liberal movements, and I imagine it was difficult to find other like-minded individuals. Hydrotherapy was the practice of wrapping the body in water soaked bandages to leach out toxins. Yikes.
And then there’s this…
Advertising For Love
“The wolf at the door is very appropriate. Thanks. -Hattie.” Excuse me? What’s going on here? What is Hattie trying to say? Who is the wolf and why is he appropriate? This is probably not a personal ad (there’s no contact information) but I do wonder what she was trying for here. Is she referring to the wolf in Little Red Riding Hood? Unfortunately, we’ll probably never know the answer.
Seeking a mate has come a long way since Helen’s 1727 ad, but is it better? Are we happier in our choices? I’d like to think that, if we slowed down a little and took the time to write ads like Mr. Leighton, we might find the perfect match.