Online Courtship… 1880!!

My daughter just sent us a fascinating piece entitled:

“Wired Love”: A tale of catfishing, OK Cupid, and sexting.

Since it’s 1880, the wires are those of the telegraph, and the two lovers are both telegraph operators who communicate using Morse Code.

“I don’t want to give too much of the plot away — I save my spoilers for below the jump. But the story, in brief, is that Nattie is at work one day when a telegraph operator in another city, who calls himself “C”, begins chatting her up. They engage in a virtual courtship, things get funny and romantic, until suddenly things take a most puzzling and mysterious turn.”

It’s really quite wild how much is recognizable in this story written in 1880…we’ve downloaded it (and printed out all 115 pages – though you can get it in various electronic formats, too), and will read it out loud, once we’re finished with Iron Heart, War Chief of the Iroquois.

This  was my Dad’s book, first printed in 1899, but my copy may be the 1927 reprint…it has a very nice embossed cover.  It’s not great literature, and I suspect that Wired Love won’t be, either – but I’m fascinated at the permanence of human nature, regardless of the changing technology around us.


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    “C” as in Carlos (Danger) ?

  • Earl

    You’ll have to click the link, Sadie….!

  • 11B40

    My repertoire of perversity contains only one telegraph related joke.  For the follow-on generations, the telegraph was an electric communication technology that was financially based on the customer being charged a certain amount for each word sent thus providing an economic incentive for terseness. 
    College Student to his Father:  No money; No funny; Your Sonny.
    Father to College Student:  Too bad; You’re sad; Your Dad.
    I may not have much to give, but when I give, I give my all.

  • MorowbieJukes

    Romance over the 19th century telegraph is covered in Tom Standage’s delightful book, “The Victorian Internet”.  It’s more than just a history of the technology;  the author looks at the social impacts which are in so many ways similar to that of the Internet, hence the title of the book.


    I clicked, Earl, and remembered a trip to Guatemala.
    The women in Guatemala changed the weaving patterns in their fabric to signal the men if they were married or single to avoid the Christian influence in their social fabric (pun not intended).

  • Earl

    Sadie:  Ha!  That’s a new wrinkle….or perhaps not.  Just that I haven’t heard of it until now.  I wonder if something similar went on in Navajo-land, and other places with a weaving culture.
    Too fascinating.

  • David Foster

    I second the recommendation of the Standage book…interesting and well-written.
    One of his stories, which I posted a while back, was the following:
    George McCutcheon was in the business of selling periodicals, and he wanted to be able to take orders on the net. He wasn’t very into technology, so he asked his teenage daughter, Maggie, to handle that part of the business. Maggie soon had the connection working, but also used it to flirt with many men she met on-line. She invited one of them, Frank, to visit her in the real world. Her father found out, and was furious…furious to the point that he threatened to kill her if she saw Frank again. Maggie had her father arrested and charged with threatening behavior. 
    The story being from the 1880s, and the “net” referred to being the telegraph network.

  • David Foster

    “the permanence of human nature, regardless of the changing technology around us”
    Here’s a Heinrich Heine poem from sometime in the early 1800s:
    A young lad loves a maiden
    she likes another one
    that other marries another
    whose heart and hand he won

    The maiden weds in anger
    the first man she can snare
    who comes across her pathway
    The lad is in despair
    It is an old, old story
    yet new with every start,
    and every time it happens
    it breaks a loving heart.

    Just for fun, I modernized it a little:
    A young dude loves a hot girl
    She likes some other guy
    When his Facebook page shows “taken”
    She hangs her head to cry
    She IMs all the evening
    Till she nabs her second-best
    When her Facebook page shows “taken,” too
    The dude is in distress
    By paper, pen, and envelope
    The news once reached the lad
    It’s now done electronically
    But the pain is just as bad
    (More Heine poetry (translated to rhyme, at some sacrifice in literal fidelity) here.)