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Matchmakers
and Bachelors
Found Marriage
Aid Societies
Quickened
Pulse in
Early Days.

BY W. S. ADAIR

    An application for a charter for a marriage benefit concern, the insurance to be collected at the time of marriage instead of at death, as with life insurance companies, was the other day refused by J. S. Morris, secretary of State of Oklahoma, according to an Associated Press dispatch.
    This application recalls the marriage aid societies which were similar and flourished for a brief period all over the South in the early '80s. Preposterous as such financing now appears on its face, the scheme, at [the] time, seemed to many of the leading business and professional men, to be perfectly sound, and at the same time, to offer a solution of the long vexed question of providing a start for impecunious couples.

Orators Were Busy.
    Much oratory was expended at the meetings, which were held everywhere in presenting the scheme to the people, and uninspired, indeed, must have been the orator who could not wax eloquent on the perenially heart-stirring topics of love, courtship, marriage, home, hearth and kindred themes.
    The plan was accepted everywhere as the very thing for which the world had so long been waiting.  But, still more wonderful than the idea itself was the mystery of why so obvious a way around matrimonial difficulties had not been discovered sooner.  But, instead of standing stupidly staring at the wonder, the people, acting on the proverb, "Better late than never," straightway addressed themselves to the work of organizing societies, and of starting the greatest matrimonial boom in the history of the country.
     Every day, new societies were announced and policy holders multiplied.  Rooms over stores, which had been sacred to the cobwebs for a generation, suddenly blossomed into bright, niftily-furnished offices, and the whole community seemed to breathe new life.  Hundreds of the leading men of the country permitted themselves to be elected officers of the concerns, even if they did have very little to say about the matter in after years.

Paid Regular Dues.
    An applicant for membership in one of these societies was permitted to take out a policy on himself, or on any other person.  He paid a certain entrance, or membership fee, and then weekly or monthly dues, according to the amount of his policy, and when he or the person, on whom he held a policy was married, he had, according to the terms of the contract, the amount of the policy coming to him.
    In practice, however, no one ever took out a policy on himself until he had arranged the preliminaries of his marriage.  No more did he on any one else, until he had assured himself that that person was engaged to be married on a certain day.  But, this was not all.  When a marriage was arranged for, the event was widely advertised, in order that whosoever desired might secure a policy on one or both of the contracting parties, and everybody got in on the ground floor.

Some Policies Paid.
    Some of the societies actually paid a few policies at first, and whenever this happened, business immediately picked up with the paying concern.  But afterward, even this actual delivery of the goods was brought in[to] question by carping victims, who gave signs that they shrewdly suspected that the officers of the society paid the money out of their own pocket and charged it to "advertising," well knowing, that by so doing, they could catch a still bigger school of suckers the next haul.
    During the heyday of the boom, matchmakers were, for once, welcomed into the open and urged to get busy, and keep busy.  Many a fearful old bachelor, who had long hesitated to take the dreaded plunge, was caught in the psychological tidal wave and were overwhelmed, and even some old maids have the broom to thank for providing them with what they perhaps would, otherwise, never have obtained.

Had Nuptials Postponed.
    In some instances, the officers of the concerns, taking alarm at the barrenness of the exchequer on a closely approaching marriage, offered the parties liberal bonuses to postpone the celebration of their nuptials, and, in at least one case in Dallas, the offer was accepted, and the wedding never did come off.  In another notable instance, consternation seized the policy holders, and joy, the officers of the societies, when it became known that the woman who was scheduled to marry a popular and heavily insured man, had suddenly decided to unite her destinies with another man, and had actually been married to him.  It was thought highly ungracious in her not to apprise her friends, to the end that they might hedge.
    As the most inexperienced person at this distance from the glamor of the movement can easily anticipate, these organizations were shortlived, for what would become of the strongest old-line life insurance company if it should depart from its established way of doing business and begin to insure only such subjects as had been given up by their physicians?  The boom collapsed almost overnight, and everybody seemed to become disillusioned at once, just as a farmer who pays good money to a stranger on a train for a worthless check, invariably discovers his mistake the moment the stranger vanishes.

Some Promoters Innocent.
    There were, of course, some dishonest persons engaged in the business, persons who knew that it was a crazy, impossible scheme, and who were in it for the money they hoped to get out of it quickly, but there is not the slightest doubt that the officers and directors of the great majority of the concerns acted in good faith, and were as innocent as their dupes, as shown by the fact that many of them paid the debts of the societies out of their private funds.
    The marriage aid boom was one of those unaccountable delusions, which, now and then, sweep the country, depriving the people of reason and hurrying them into follies which children would not commit in more sober times.  The whole thing was well laughed at, not precisely at the time of its collapse, but afterward, and for long afterward.

- October 10, 1920, The Dallas Morning News,
Pt. III, p. 13, col. 1.
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