Most of us feel pretty unique and original when we find romance through the Internet these days. But the truth is, this is a time-honored American tradition.

The mail-order bride industry emerged in the 1800s in frontier America.  As men moved out West and found financial success, one thing was missing, the company of a loving wife.

Very few women lived in the West, so it was impossible for men to settle down and start a family.  Many men attempted to attract women living on the East coast by writing letters to churches and published personal advertisements in magazines and newspapers.   In return, the women would write to the men and send them photographs of themselves.  Courtships was conducted by letter, until a woman agreed to move out West to marry a man she had never met before.

For the Eastern women this was one way to escape their present way of life, gain some financial security, and see what life on the frontier might have to offer them.   Most of these women were single and never married, but some were widows, divorcees or runaways, or in one controversial case known as the “Brides for Indians” program of the 1870s, the women were former inmates of prison or insane asylums recruited to “civilize” members of the Cheyenne tribe.  Don’t miss this fascinating fictionalized account of this crazy piece of American history!

Before the Internet replaced the mail-order bride business in the U.S., we had decades of personal ads in magazines and newspapers which acted as a kind of dating service.  Men or women would place personal ads and meet prospective partners much like the Internet today, except they often exchanged letters first and then phone calls.

Back in the early 1990s, this is how I met my first husband, through a newspaper personal ad where I required them to write me a letter first.  Why?  Because I wanted to make certain they knew how to write, spell and express themselves well.   OK, so that experiment ended in divorce, but my second attempt at love through the Internet worked out great!