Why A Man's Personal Ad From 1865 Still Has Us Laughing Today

The year 1865 is an important one in United States History. It's the year that marked the end of the American Civil War and the year that President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated by actor and Confederate sympathizer John Wilkes Booth at Washington D.C.'s Ford's Theatre. Those are just two of the many events that the country had to navigate in the months following the end of the Civil War, per the Library of Congress.

Since we tend to look at those events when studying history, it's extremely easy to forget that at the same time, regular people were going about their daily lives. They were throwing parties, they were starting businesses, they were going to school, and in some cases, they were looking for love. Such was the case for an 18-year-old man from Aroostook County, Maine, per Elite Daily.

The man, whose name we, unfortunately, don't know (or perhaps, for the sake of his legacy and his descendants, fortunately), posted a personal ad in a newspaper with hopes of finding a wife. The ad was uncovered by Max Roser, a researcher at Oxford University, who posted a photo of it on Twitter, and it managed to get people laughing at the poor guy's expense 150 years later.

The personal ad starts with some bizarre — but very much of their time — statements

The personal ad this fella decided to post is a product of its time — one in which dating customs and etiquette were much different — and, boy, does it start off with a heater. The guy who wrote this was a straight shooter and wasted no time getting right to the point with a headline that reads "Chance For A Spinster." Spinster is a fairly outdated word for an unmarried woman beyond the age women are typically married (via Merriam-Webster). At the time this mid-19th century Casanova was trying to find a lady, the average age at which women were married was 21 years old, per The Classroom.

The Aroostook County, Maine native (Aroostook County is in northern Maine along the U.S. Canada border, per Aroostook County Tourism) then gives his age and one of the most bizarre pick-up lines in American history: that he has "a good set of teeth." That's item number one on the list. Sure it's good, but usually, it comes somewhere after "adventurous" and "dog-lover" on most modern dating profiles, and that's only if it shows up at all (which it doesn't). Of course, back then, having great teeth was probably a big selling point, just like 1960s hotels advertising that they have color TVs. From a modern perspective, someone telling you they have nice teeth right from the jump makes you steer clear — once again — like hotels trying to entice you with color TVs.

The personal ad is so funny because it's a product of its time

However, in a move that mirrors modern times, he does take a second to extoll his political leaning and patriotism. He says he believes in "Andy Johnson, the star-spangled banner, and the 4th of July." Referring to "Andy Johnson" is an almost certain hat tip (this guy almost certainly also wore a hat) toward Lincoln's successor and then-president Andrew Johnson, per The White House.

The young man then goes on to tout his possessions, which is something people do today, only they pose in nice hotel rooms or sitting on the hood of a Lamborghini. This guy had a lot that he was clearing and hoping to turn into a farm. Plus, he had a herd of cattle and crops like buckwheat, oats, and potatoes that would certainly make any 19th-century woman swoon.

According to Inspire More, at the end of the personal ad, we learn that our hero is a hopeless romantic. "I want to get married. I want to buy bread-and-butter, hoop-skirts, and waterfalls for some person of the female persuasion during life. That's what's the matter with me. But I don't know how to do it." The poor guy just wanted to find love, and isn't that what we all want? Still, it's impossible not to pick his ad apart and pose questions like, why would he need to buy bread and butter if he has a farm with really great buckwheat and cattle?

The modern response to this guy's ad

Most of the attention this ad gained when it was first shared on Twitter in 2017 stemmed from the way it highlighted the differences between the 19th century and modern times as to how people put themselves out into the dating pool. Of course, our favorite 1860s Romeo didn't have access to a phone loaded with an array of dating apps and had to turn to the classifieds, per History Daily. Still, similarities remain in the way he tried to pitch himself and what he was looking for in a relationship. To a modern reader, it still sounds very funny to read someone trying to use their "bully" potatoes to impress a woman.

So, despite the old-timey vernacular, it would seem that a lot of people enjoyed this guy's ad, because it was a window into the everyday lives of people living in the 1860s. It also showed that while the words and methodology have changed a great deal, in other ways, life hasn't changed all that much.