Thursday, October 15, 2020

Spotlight of Matrimony, Inc. by Francesca Beauman


Information in this post is courtesy of Molly Concannon of Wunderkind PR.

A clever, thoughtful, and funny history that reveals how the Union of states was built on a much more personal union of people.


From Personal Ads to Swiping Right, A Story of America Looking for Love


Francesa Beauman spent years scrolling old newspapers to bring these little-known gems to light, and is a champion for women’s history: her family bookstore, Persephone Books in London, reprints neglected work by 20th century women writers and is a fan-favorite of Lena Dunham and Benedict Cumberbatch! 

Did you know?

  • The first personal ad in America ran in the Boston Evening Post in 1759.
  • California’s first personal ads were placed by women.
  • America’s most prolific female serial killer, Belle Gunness, found her victims through ads.
  • One of the strangest ads Francesca discovered was from 1903 in The New York Times: “Young man, moderate circumstances, and who has glass eye, would like to form the acquaintance of young girl who also has a glass eye or some other deformity not more severe…”
  • From the beginning, nearly all American personal ads mentioned money.
  • Advertising for love has been uniquely affected by time and place, but has also received criticism in nearly every format, despite being around for hundreds of years!!



Lively… She [Beauman] is a companionable and witty narrator and an excellent curator of primary source material. History buffs will be entertained.”—Publishers Weekly

"Ever since there were newspapers there were personal ads. Reading them is a peek into the romantic hopes and dreams of people who felt the desire to reach out in this public way. Francesca's book gives us a window into the history of the U.S. and the politics of how marriage shaped this country.  Fascinating, just like Francesca.”—Joey Soloway, creator of Transparent

"Who among us hasn’t been a voyeur of the personal ad? Francesca Beauman’s deep historical dive into a person’s most naked ask into the universe is hilarious and shocking and heartbreaking, and reveals through these incredible finds how the needs and expectations of what we look for in a mate have evolved, and what has stubbornly remained the same. You won’t be able to hear the phrase “swipe right” quite the same way again."—Kathryn Hahn, actor

"Enchanting. Matrimony, Inc. is a history not just of personal ads over the past two and a half centuries, but of America itself. Funny, outrageous, revealing, and impossible to put down.” 

"Beauman writes with elegance, wit and profound intelligence. A wonderful book full of impressive original research which charts how personal ads shaped the course of American history. A joyous and clever read.”—Elizabeth Day, author of The Party and How to Fail

"A fascinating, hilarious, and occasionally heartbreaking work of history. With wry wit and a trained eye for the absurd, Beauman takes a cultural artifact that seems so perishable and rescues it from the scrap heap. These lonely-heart epistles tell a larger story about social life in America, homesteads, cities, newspapers, gender relations, and the enduring appeal of ‘a good set of teeth.’”—Patrick Radden Keefe, author of Say Nothing, winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award

"Lively, illuminating, and entertaining, Beauman's book amounts to nothing less than a history of love as we've lived it through the centuries. Considering all the competing needs—emotional, logistical, geographical, and fiscal—the elastic institution of marriage has been forced to encompass, it is a wonder that it can be successfully solicited in several sentences on the pages of a frontier newspaper or the scratched screen of an iPhone.”

Ariel Levy, journalist and author of The Rules Do Not Apply

 A gorgeous book. It turns out that the search for love actually was always funny, sad, weird and wonderful.” —Richard Curtis, writer of Love Actually, Notting Hill, and Four Weddings and a Funeral

“Lively...[Beauman] is a companionable and witty narrator and an excellent curator of primary source material. History buffs will be entertained.”—Publishers Weekly

"Fascinating. A peek into the romantic hopes and dreams of people who felt the desire to reach out in this public way. Beauman’s book gives us a window into the history of the U.S. and the politics of how marriage shaped this country.” —Joey Soloway, creator of Transparent

“Beauman has uncovered a treasure trove of fascinating detail. Matrimony, Inc. is the ultimate proof that we humans are fools for love. But also desperate, courageous, and occasionally lucky.”—Dr. Amanda Foreman, New York Times bestselling author of Georgiana: Duchess of Devonshire



Putting our current methods of dating into an intimate and fascinating perspective, Matrimony, Inc. explores a little-known aspect of American history: how the emergence of personal ads ultimately shaped the progression of American society. 

At a time when many people were limited to courting one of only a handful of eligible individuals in their community, personal ads connected people across states and regions, offering opportunities that previously wouldn’t have been possible. 

The Boston Evening Post published America’s first personal ad in 1759: “Any young lady, between the Age of Eighteen and Twenty-three . . . of good Morals . . . No trifling Answers will be regarded.” 

With our current options for online dating now nearly limitless, connecting the entire world with potential partners, much of what we know as modern dating can be traced back to these very ads.

With captivating and quirky personal ads from each major period of American history, Beauman explores how our desires have changed, and what has stayed the same over the last 300 years. 

She highlights a number of women’s experiences, from widowed single mothers and immigrants eager for a new life to the intrepid women of California, who placed the state’s first personals. 

However, not all of the personal ads were used for good. 

Scammers, con artists, and even serial killers took advantage of the new anonymous format. 

In fact, America’s first known female serial killer, Belle Gunness, notoriously used ads to find her victims, luring them to her country home and disposing of the bodies around the property.

Matrimony, Inc. will leave you wondering what happened to those long-lost souls who placed ads, and readers will revel in the experience of those who connected through them, changing the course of history as we know it.



After a decade as a T.V. host, Francesca Beauman is now a writer, historian and part-time bookseller at London’s most beautiful bookstore, Persephone Books. Francesca is the author of six books, including a history of the pineapple and a history of British personal ads. 

She also runs the popular book forum “Fran’s Book Shop” (@fransbookshop).

Connect with Fran!

Author Website



Fran’s Book Shop