Dating, 19th Century Style

Andrew Cavitt

Matilda Norman

Remember the lovely woman with her hair swept up in a bun that you saw on yesterday’s post?  Well, this is the same young woman, possibly as a teenager or young 20-something, back in the late 1860’s, or about 1870.

And this young man was her beau (pronounced ‘BOW’, as in ‘bow and arrow’.  Means: boyfriend) in about 1870 or 1871.

Girls, this is how you want your suitors (another word for boyfriend) to treat you!

Here is an example of Andrew asking Matilda out for a date:

When Matilda opened her envelope, eagerly we can imagine, this is what she read (in perfectly beautiful script)

“Mr. J.A. Cavitt requests an indulgence in his desire to accompany Miss M. Norman to church tomorrow night.  Mch 4th 71”  Below this is written, in a little aside, “Oh, ye saints!  I couldn’t conscientiously indulge him. “

How’s that for polite, tasteful, and coy?

People commonly received mail twice a day, so this likely came to Matilda in the morning post (another way of saying ‘mail delivery’).

It is a 2 1/2″ x 4 1/4″ envelope, white, with handwriting from a quill pen (NOT ballpoint, NOT rollerball, NOT felt-tip, NOT cartridge, NOT pencil, and certainly NOT typewritten), but metal-tipped with a slot that sucks up the ink from the ink well or bottle!

Written in cursive is “Miss Matilda Norman”, and on another line down “Present”, which means that the post office was supposed to deliver it within the same town, and, of course, the mailman would know who Matilda was and where she lived.

Another fact about the envelope is that the three lines allowed for the address are actually the outline of a board fence being  constructed by three naked, winged cherubs, two of which are floating above the ground.

Here is an example of Matilda’s answer to another of his notes:

Arrival of same-sized white envelope, this time with “Mr. J.A. Cavitt” written in script in the lower right-hand corner, with “Present” written under it.  Probably came in the afternoon post in response to his request which would have arrived at Matilda’s home in the morning post.

When Andrew opened it, this is what he read in reply to his request to call upon Miss Norman at her parents’ home:  “Mr. Cavitt, I will gladly welcome your coming this evening.  Tillie Norman     Home    March 29th”

We can only guess what each was looking for in the auditions for a future spouse, but there are so many letters back and forth between these two that it isn’t too hard to figure it out.

Each was looking for good character in the other:  trustworthiness, honesty, integrity, industry (which is another way of saying NOT LAZY), as well as common understanding of what is necessary to be a couple in the society in which they lived, common understanding on religious matters, and not a little bit of chemistry between the two of them.

The style might be a little flowery and formal for our times (or a LOT flowery and formal), but the feelings of respect for the other person come through loudly and clearly, and that never goes out of style!