I’m doing research for my book and was reading an article published on Dec 30, 1900 in the Minneapolis Star Tribune, when this headline caught my eye.
Port Jervis, NY. William Hull was drinking with his neighbor, Moses Storms (great name). After “a liberal flow of beer”, Hull drew up a contract to sell his wife to Storms for ten cents. This was a real contract, specifying that the payment was to be made in cash, and signed by William, Moses, Mary (William’s wife), and another person. Moses paid up and he and Mary left together.
That’s a pretty good start, right? But just wait until you hear this part.
On Christmas morning, Hull was feeling a little sentimental. He went to Storms’ place, and declared he was taking his wife back. Moses objected, citing the contract, but Hull had an ace up his sleeve. He informed his neighbor that the contract null and void because it had been drawn up on a Sunday.
Storms was seriously upset. His new wife was snatched unceremoniously from his house and taken back to the Hull home. Adding insult to injury, Hull did not refund his ten cents. Storms consulted a legal expert for advice but the old judge shook his head and said the contract wasn’t good.
Storms was quoted as follows: “Bill Hull buncoed me out of a wife and 10 cents in money.” I think he pretty much summed it up right there.
On the same day, another transaction involving a much more expensive wife transpired.
Wilmerding, PA: Antonio Abbitticha and Nicholas Baloga were both in love with Carolina Mereno back in Italy. Carolina chose Baloga.
Years later, Antonio Abbitticha came for a visit. Since the time he had hoped to marry Carolina, Nicholas and Carolina got married, moved to the United States, and had a baby.
Antonio made a good-natured remark about “Lucky Nick”. But Nicholas was like, “Well, ackshually…” And eventually let his old rival know it might have been better if the roles were reversed and he was “Lucky Antonio”.
A deal was quickly struck that would sell Carolina to Antonio for a sum of $8. (You have to wonder how Mary Hull felt about that.) But things hit a snag. Carolina didn’t say anything about parting from Nicholas, but she wasn’t about to leave her child behind. Antonio was probably out of cash, but he was a resourceful guy and offered to throw in two kegs of beer for the child, which sounded perfectly adequate to Baloga. Lucky Nick wrote out a receipt for his wife and child, and Antonio, Carolina, and the child headed back to Italy.
Despite the funny elements, the stories initially felt degrading to the women involved. But after giving it some thought, the article didn’t seem to indicate either woman was sorry to leave her husband. My guess is they probably saw it as some sort of deliverance. Who knows? They may have even orchestrated it.
It’s well to remember that for every lousy husband like Nicholas Baroga or William Hull, there were plenty of normal men. And, lest I overlook the fact that there were also women who behaved badly, the Minneapolis Star Tribune considerately placed this article next to the wife-sellers:
Ava, Illinois. Mrs. John Conner was miffed with the editor of Ava Advertiser, Mr. E.E. Waller.
Waller’s offense was publishing an article that denounced a man and woman, both unnamed, for refusing to take copies of his paper that had been mailed to them.
Mrs. Conner was not a woman to be trifled with. She was the unnamed woman who had refused the copy of the Ava Advertiser. And she didn’t appreciate Waller printing the story.
She appeared at his office with her nephew and her brother-in-law, and demanded Waller apologize. When he refused, she pulled a riding whip from her pocket and horse-whipped him. There’s no mention of her even being arrested for this.
Significantly, the paper hastened to add that Mrs. Conner “moves in the very best society.” The editor of Minneapolis Star Tribune sure didn’t want to get on her bad side!
Just in case you think I made it up: