The Perley B. Dickinson papers consist of items addressed to Perley Dickinson of Hill, New Hampshire, and include thirty letters written by women in response to a personal advertisement placed by Dickinson after his divorce.
Language: The material is in English Repository: William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan
909 S. University Ave. The University of Michigan Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1190 Phone: 734-764-2347 Web Site: www.clements.umich.edu
Access and Use
The collection is open for research.
Copyright status is unknown.
Perley B. Dickinson Papers, William L. Clements Library, The University of Michigan
Perley B. Dickinson was born in Hill, New Hampshire, in August 1830 to Perley Dickinson, a farmer, and Mary B. Dickinson. He had a brother, Benjamin Franklin Dickinson, and a sister, Mary E. A. Dickinson. On August 16, 1859, Perley B. Dickinson married Hannah S. Woodward who was born in November 1830, and with whom he had one child, Fillmore V. (born January 1871). By 1880, he was also a farmer in Hill, New Hampshire, and by 1900, he and Hannah had divorced. He retired by 1920 and died on November 11, 1922 at the age of 92 of "cerebral softening" (Hill Town Report, 1923). Hannah was still alive in 1930, at the age of 99, and was living with their son Fillmore V. Dickinson.
Dickinson placed several personal advertisements in matrimonial agency publications, beginning around 1895. He responded to the ads of three different women in the Marriage Advocate in 1897, and placed at least one ad in Matchmaking in 1899, which read, "Smart old man, good habits, with means. Ladies please write." The bulk of this collection consists of letters written to Dickinson in response to his personal advertisements.
The Clements Library also holds two contemporary items that complement Dickinson's collection, The Wedding Bells Matrimonial Catalogue (1908), a pamphlet published in Tekonsha, Michigan, that features the photographs and personal ads of 280 women, and A Few Nuptial Attractions (1897), a broadsheet published in Chicago that contains the personal ads of almost 100 women.
Collection Scope and Content Note
The Perley B. Dickinson papers consist of 33 letters addressed to Perley Dickinson, 2 letters addressed to his brother, Benjamin Franklin Dickinson, 1 newspaper clipping, 4 form letters sent by newspapers, and 2 envelopes addressed to Perley Dickinson. One of the letters sent to Benjamin Franklin Dickinson is from his son Leonard and the other is from T. B. Richardson. Two of the letters sent to Dickinson were written by his ex-wife, Hannah S. Dickinson. 30 of the letters were written by women in response to personal advertisements Dickinson placed in serials. These letters were written by 19 different women; 6 of these women wrote from 2 to 4 letters each. The rest of the women just wrote one.
The letters Dickinson received from his sister and son discuss general topics such as events in their lives and the weather in New England. The two letters from Dickinson's ex-wife, however, discuss a court settlement regarding hay and the division of their property. The letters from women who are responding to Dickinson's personal ads often describe the writer's appearance and personality - "not exactly homely and not a beauty" (Sylvia A. Scott, June 2, 1898) and discuss exchanging photos. Some mention his ads, which described him as a "smart old man" and "spiritualist," while others discuss his dislike for alcohol and tobacco. One letter writer refuses his request that she send a lock of hair and comments that his writing is "feminine" (Blanche H. Rogers, December 14, 1898). Another writer, in her third and final letter, comments that Dickinson is not really interested in finding a wife but rather enjoys flirting (V. E. Hansberry, April 16, 1900). The letter writers vary in age, from the mid-twenties to having grown and married children, and are geographically dispersed over 11 states, 10 of which are east of the Mississippi River.