For The Love of a Mail Order Bride

Cover Photo


What the mail order bride ad says: Traditionally built

What the ad means: Better reinforce the floors

 I’ve always loved mail order bride stories.  So imagine my delight when I was invited to write one for a collection with Mary Connealy, Robin Lee Hatcher and Debra Clapton. The result is A Bride for All Seasons, our June release.

The brides in our book all found their matches through the Hitching Post Mail Order Bride Catalogue, a marriage broker for the discerning, lonely or desperate .

Thanks to the editorial talents of the Hitching Post owner, the most undesirable man or woman could, with a stroke of the pen, become a highly desirable candidate—at least on paper.   

Our four trusting heroines don’t have the foggiest idea what they’re getting into. But then neither did the thousands of women who traveled west during the 1800s to marry men known only through letter correspondence.



What the mail order bride ad says: Loving spirit

What the ad means: Keep her away from the cowhands

The original mail order bride business grew out of necessity.  The lack of marriageable women in the west was partly responsible, but so was the Civil War.  Not only did the war create thousands of widows but also a shortage of men, especially in the south.

 As a result,  “Heart and Hand” catalogues popped up around the country. According to an article in the Toledo Blade, lonely men even wrote to the Sears catalogue company asking for brides (the latest such letter received was from a lonely Marine during the Vietnam War).

Ads averaged five to fifteen cents and letters were exchanged along with photographs. It cost as much as five dollars to send a letter by Pony Express and it took ten days for delivery.  Often the wax seals melted in the desert heat, causing the letter to be thrown away before reaching its destination.

 Not all marriage brokers were legitimate and many a disappointed client ended up with an empty bank account rather than a contracted mate.

  What the mail order bride ad says: Maternal

What the ad means: Has six children and one on the way

For some mail-order couples, it was love (or lust) at first sight. In 1886, one man and his mail order bride were so enamored with one another they scandalized fellow passengers on the Union Pacific Railroad during their honeymoon.

Not every bride was so lucky.  In her book Hearts West, Christ Enss tells the story of mail order bride Eleanor Berry. En route to her wedding her stage was held up at gunpoint by four masked men.  Shortly after saying “I do,” and while signing the marriage license, she suddenly realized that her husband was one of the outlaws who had robbed her.  The marriage is said to have lasted an hour.

No one seems to know how many mail order brides traveled west during the  1800s, but the most successful matchmaker of all appears to be Fred Harvey who, by the turn of the century, had married off 5000 Harvey girls. 

What the mail order bride ad says:  It’s easy to order a book

What the ad means: Just click on the A Bride for All Seasons cover


Any of you have a mail order bride in your family history?   Under what circumstances might you have been a mail order bride? 


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25 thoughts on “For The Love of a Mail Order Bride”

  1. I don’t know about any mail order brides but I did find that my husband’s family (Tipton) and mine (Stevenson) had married back in the 1800s. So my husband and I are not the first Stevenson-Tipton’s to marry.

  2. Margaret, my mother’s parents wasn’t exactly a mail order bride but they had never met and they exchanged letters that led to a proposal. Grandpa got on a train in Nebraska, rode out to Washington State. Married Grandma and brought her back to Nebraska.
    They had never met.
    They were married thirty years, until Grandpa’s death and they had four children, the first one born about 15 months after the wedding.
    My mom says, as far as she could tell, they always got along very well.
    So it can work.

  3. Jennifer, the fact that you aren’t the only Stevenson-Tipton’s to marry is not surprising. I have friends with a similar experience. When they reseached their family trees they discovered many marriages between the two families. Attraction must be genetic.

  4. I have never heard it mentioned in my family, but I know there were a few War Brides mentioned in our family.

  5. Not in my family, to my knowledge. But I think the ‘Harvey Girls” were the smart ones.. You had a job while checking out the prospects..

  6. My brother met his wife through Christian missionaries. Exchange photos, started corresponding and then he flew to her country. He went there a few times and she came here. Anyway,this July 1st they will be married seven years. Both are happy and living for the Lord.

  7. I don’t think we had any mail order brides in my family history or at least none that I have hear about.

  8. There have been no mail order brides in my family that I know of. I do like reading about them and can only imagine what fear and excitement they must of felt.

  9. Margaret, one small correction.

    The Pony Express ceased operations in 1861. Any post-Civil War mail order bride business would have been conducted using the regular US mails.

  10. You know I was about to say that there were no mail order brides in my family but I’m thinking that the internet has introduced several couples in my family. I have a neice who met her husband on e-harmony. He is a minister, she has a degree in youth ministries, they were both bone on January 6th, they both collected nativities. They now have two beautiful children. A nephew also met his spouse on the internet and they have three beautiful children. Now my brother’s widow has married someone she met online. He seems like a wonderful person and I hope that they allow us to get to know him.

    I love mail order bride stories.

  11. I look forward to reading this book. I love anthologies and Mail Order Brides are a favorite story line.

    Since our ancestors are all from the East (and stayed there), there are no traditional mail order bride stories in the family that I know of. However, on my mother’s side of the family, we go back to the french that first settled along the St. Lawrence River in what is now Quebec Province. Some were soldiers, some were farmers, some were killed by the indians. Two of the “greats” were women who came over as part of the filles du roi or King’s Daughters, also known as the King’s wards, program. King Louis XIV wanted a settled population that would grow and establish a strong french presence in the colonies. From 1663 to 1673, about 800 young women were sent to the french settlements. The King provided passage and a dowry for each of them.

  12. Shay, you’re right about the pony express. I didn’t make myself clear. The Pony Express was used to exchange letters between couples but not after the war.

    Thank you for helping me clarify!

  13. Connie, I have friends who met through the Internet. I guess you can call that the mail order catalog of today!

    Maybe I should have asked how many found their sweeties through eHarmony?

  14. Margaret I’m late, but I wanted to say how much I enjoyed this post. I was laughing as I read it, thinking, HOW TRUE! LOL This looks like another winner! Congratulations! This looks like a great collection.

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