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Less-Than-Fun fact: homosexuality was outlawed and punishable by death in the UK by wife-murderer Henry VIII and continued to be illegal until 1967. A., anyone accused of being a "sodomite" doing "buggery" was also legally sentenced to death as of 1776.) Coded words, female names and other signals in personals were channels to privately expressing vulnerability and find companionship that society forbade.
During this time, gathering sites for gay men known as Molly Houses were subject to regular raids by law enforcement. 1727: Women Get Smacked Down for Expressing Personal Desire In 1727, Englishwoman Helen Morrison became the first woman to place an ad in a Lonely Hearts column.
Even before the Web itself, bulletin boards and newsgroups hosted a variety of ways people could use technology to meet others with similar interests, including dating.
Phishing, fake profiles, and ads for escorts continue this tradition today.
Early 1900s: The Lonely Rural Farmers, Ranchers and Shepherds Around the turn of the last century, personal ads enjoyed a renaissance of popularity, especially in the Western US with low populations and the harsh realities of rural life without a partner.
I mean, one could argue that even Voyager 1's Golden Record is kind of a massive, interstellar personal ad (complete with the recorded sound of a kiss! It's as if humanity decided to document all our best features and send them into space with this message: So dating apps are really the latest manifestation of human beings doing what we've always done -- create new tools to communicate and then turn around and use those tools to find love, sex and companionship.
1695: The First Personal Ads According to history professor H. Cocks (seriously --The Best Name Ever for an academic) personal ads began as a way to help British bachelors find eligible wives.
But as magazines and periodicals such as The Wedding Bell in the US and The Correspondent, Matrimonial Herald and Marriage Gazette in the UK hit the newsstands with immense popularity, matchmaking and personals took off as well, creating the first wave of true mainstream normalization for the personal ad.