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.
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