12 Questionable Pieces of Retro Advice

Posted by Ancestry Team on March 31, 2015 in Family History
Bad retro advice

Image courtesy of wackystuff via Flickr

From Dorothy Dix to Ann Landers, advice columns have long filled American newspapers.

The archives on Ancestry are rich with pointers on how to snag a man or behave in polite company. They’re a window into the social mores of different eras — many of which are thankfully long gone. If you’re looking for some new words to live by (or not), here are a dozen iffy aphorisms from days past.

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1. It is not polite for a girl to sit in a man’s lap the first time he asks her, unless she is afraid he won’t ask her again. — Ironwood Daily Globe, 1924

2. For unmarried girls: If you dance well, dance seldom. If you dance ill, never dance at all. — Janesville Daily Gazette, 1861

3. Don’t feed men flattery in hunks with a shovel. They resent this, but every man will eat out of your hand if it is filled with sugar. Don’t be a crude bungler and tell a man in so many words that he is God’s masterpiece. Get the idea across to him by your air of adoration: by the awe with which you listen to his opinion; by the rapt expression on your face when you listen to him monologuing along about himself. — Syracuse Herald, 1933

4. A bachelor is a person who enjoys everything and pays for nothing — a married man is one that pays for everything and enjoys nothing. The one drives a sulkey through life, and is not expected to take care of any one but himself; the other keeps a carriage, which is always too full to afford him a comfortable seat. Be cautious how you exchange your sulkey for a carriage! — Star and Republican Banner, 1840


5. In conversation, trifling occurrences such as small disappointments, petty annoyances, and other every-day incidents, should never be mentioned to friends. — Isabella Beeton’s Book of Household Management, 1869

6. The poor man who is ambitious handicaps himself by marriage. Success is a jealous mistress, and demands of the one who wins her all that he has to give of time, and effort, and devotion, and she flouts those who give her half-hearted allegiance, and prefer a wife before her. — Ogden Standard Examiner, 1921

7. If, inadvertently, you get a spot on the table-cloth, absent-mindedly place a piece of bread over it, butter side down. The butter will keep the bread from slipping off the spot. — Bismarck Daily Tribune, 1915

8. If a woman needs a man’s assistance in walking, take his arm instead of allowing him to take yours. Just tell him in plain English, “hands off!” Give a man your arm and you will find him very confidential, and he will take a great many privileges he would not take if he was not permitted to do so. — The Mountain Democrat, 1880

9. A nod is not a bow. To nod to a woman is open disrespect. — Reno Evening Gazette, 1889

10. When you enter a crowded lecture-room, and a gentleman rises politely (as American gentlemen always do) and offers to give up his seat (that he came an hour ago to secure for himself) take it as a matter of course; and don’t trouble yourself to thank him even with a nod of your head. As to feeling uneasy about accepting it, that’s ridiculous! Because if he don’t fancy standing during the service, he’s at liberty to go home; it’s a free country! — Hornellsville Tribune, 1852

11. If the ladies would eat pickles but once a week, and sweetmeats but once a year, if they would take a cold bath every night and morning, and walk five miles a day, they would have no need of cosmetics to make them beautiful. — The Sheboygan Mercury, 1851

12. Women should not complain of their husbands in public. All married women have a great deal to contend with. Everybody knows that married men make very poor husbands. — Manners for the Metropolis, 1908


— Rebecca Dalzell

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