Nowadays, we have endless—?!—possibilities of falling in love, going on a date and eventually getting married.
I said endless? Okay not endless, even today, but definitely more than those women of our beloved Old West had. And then it occured to me! How exactly a woman and a man would flirt or go on a date during the Frontier Era? The right term back then was courtship…I bet you already know that, because of propriety, there were courting rules!
So today, my dear, join me for a ride back in the history of courting, wild-west style…Believe me, gentlemen of the Old West who were truly in love, were doing their best to show their love while at the same time trying to be appropriate!
This time, I won’t focus on the Mail-Order Bride advertisements or the letters and correspondence that were very common back then. It’s worth saying, though, that most of the marriages during the western era were done through this process. Men mostly en, but later on women too, were posting their ads, waiting for someone to respond.
But today, sweetie, I will present to you with a couple of things that lovebirds did face to face. No letters, no advertisements. Just the two of them, courting! Well, almost. Because there was another way for a man to court a woman…and it was through a photograph!
Yes, you read right…through photographs!
Here is an example. A man of marriageable age visits his best friend’s house. His best friend is married to a beautiful woman. There are many framed photographs in their house.
Suddenly, there she is. In a photograph the man sees his friend wife’s sister… “Is she single? Can I meet her? Can I write to her? May I ask her father’s permission to court her?” would be some of the interested man’s questions. If the woman would be available, perhaps the family would prepare for a second marriage!
Back to our face-to-face meetings now…
Where could a man find a single woman? In church, most probably; also in social gatherings, celebrations and festivals, in balls, or even at a barn “party”. Well, we should keep in mind that men were much more in number than women. That is why they were the ones who started posting Mail-Order Bride advertisements…to find available ladies!
Okay. We’ve Met. Now What?
Let’s say two lovebirds have found each other. That they have found love. What now?
Well, first of all the man had to make his intentions clear. The man in love had to ask the permission of his love’s father, brother or uncle to court her. He had to show that his intentions were serious and that he was not fooling around. The lady had a reputation to protect after all.
Needless to say that many marriages started from courtship. Back then, courting meant that a man was spending time with a woman to see if they are indeed “compatible” for marriage. It wasn’t like an engagement but it was surely a promise for both of them to be seriously committed to one another. Also when a lady was being courted, she couldn’t court or flirt with other single men or potential suitors.
Where Can We Meet? What Can We Do (And Can’t Do)?
Propriety and society back then were very demanding and strict. The saloons—that were something like our bars today— weren’t places for a lady. Only saloon girls could go there. So where could the two lovebirds meet up? What they were allowed to do?
Do: The man could visit girl’s place. Of course, with an adult family member as a chaperone. As I said, the lady had a reputation to protect.
Don’t: The man could not be alone with the lady in her house without a chaperone.
Do: Spending time in his girl’s house and joining her family in meals.
Do: Going for a walk alone, only the two of them, in public places where other people could see them as well.
Don’t: The two of them alone, in a private place. We can say here that the Victorian rules were far more restricted. In the Old West, things were a bit looser. At least regarding the romantic walks…
Do: Riding. Who doesn’t love horses?
Do: Dinner in wonderful restaurants. Great choice. Public place, warm atmosphere, nice food and little times of privacy…;)
Do: Picnics. It was really common for people back then to go on picnics and enjoy the outdoors. It was considered a truly romantic gesture! If there was ice cream too, it would be the best!
Do: The two lovebirds could attend social events together. Of course, the man had to ask for the lady father’s permission. He had to pick her up from her doorstep, take her to where the festival/event was and then take her back home, at a reasonable time, without any delays.
Don’t: Staying together after the event has ended…and people knew what time that was! If the two lovebirds would stay together somewhere private after the event, the lady’s family—and not only— would find out. The lady’s reputation was not protected.
Do: Reading together or playing games together. Poetry, literature, parlor games, card games.
The Dos Of Showing…Affection?
A man could open the door for his beloved, as proof of his interest. He could also bring her some flowers or offer her a present…a dress, a handkerchief, an embroidery, a ribbon for her hair!
What is more, as mentioned before, correspondence during the Western Era was crucial. The man could not express his love and desires directly to his lady, but he could write a love letter! How romantic is that?
And Then We Are Engaged
When the commitment became even more serious, the couple was allowed to sit together in the church or hold hands. BUT: Holding hands required the presence of the lady’s mother or father. Difficult times, what can we say?
Also, the man could help the lady with her shopping: , the heavy bags. What is more, the man could help his lady’s family too. If her father needed help in the ranch or something, our man would be the first to help.
Love is love…
A Goodbye Kiss…
When our lovebirds would finally get engaged, they could exchange their first kiss! Well, at last, if you ask me! 😉
That’s it! It’s time for me to say goodbye to you, dear. For now, at least!
Thank you for reading my article, I sincerely hope you enjoyed it! I must say I loved writing it.
I will be thrilled to read your thoughts, as always! You can leave me a comment below, or send me an email!
Until then, you have my love 🙂
Written by Cassidy Hanton