Relationships Of The Times

Love and marriage, or at least marriage

Women in the West tended to court and marry at a later age than did those in the eastern and southern parts of the country. Though Victorian influences spread into the West, couples engaged in premarital sex, particularly during the latter portion of the period. Many did marry once a woman was pregnant, particularly among conservative Euro-American people, even though often the baby came within just a few months (or hours) of the marriage ceremony.

Engagement rings

In the late 1800s, the Oppenheimer family established a diamond monopoly with its company, De Beers. Around that time, Victorian culture was busy assigning abstract concepts to material objects. For instance, Kate Greenaway's wildly popular The Language of Flowers (1885) ascribed a meaning to each specie and variety of flower. A yellow rose meant platonic love, for instance. Such assignations applied to stones as well, which sometimes increased a substance's value. The idea that diamonds represented "perfect love" evolved during the Victorian era but was reinforced by the marketing of De Beers. What this means is - no diamond engagement rings yet. Rubies, sapphires, emeralds, amethysts, yes. Diamonds, no.

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One woman procured the release of her husband from jail and that night ran off with another fellow. Her object in procuring her husband's release was to leave somebody with the children…

Marriages were often dissolved by women when they felt abused or were physically or verbally abusive. If a man and woman did not get along with each other, they divorced and went there own ways without recrimination from each other. Euro-Americans in the West were allowed divorce without much difficulty. There were far more divorces in the West than in other regions of the country.

Bar Etiquette

A custom prevailing at the bar was to address a man by his "front name" and not to inquire into his second, or where he came from. Too much curiosity was impolite, besides being unhealthy. The West cared little for a man's, or a woman's, past and solemnly accepted any name voluntarily offered… Many a quiet, flint-eyed stranger coyoted around in saloons trying, for reasons of his own, to catch a surname. If a stranger came drifting through the country "just to see the sights" that was his business. If he had a reason to be secretive about his comings and goings, his silence was respected. One also never asked a rancher the size of his herd, that would have been like asking to see a man's income tax return today. As cowpunchers put it: "Minding one's own business is the best life insurance."

The men with their feet on the brass railing respected a fellow's privacy, but they hated deception. Should a gent call for a drink and turn out to be unable to pay for it, he might be in for a beating, or worse. But if he owned up that he was broke and had a five-dollar thirst, few men would refuse to treat him. They were compassionate in the face of human suffering and generous to a fault. Cardplayers and boozers would take up a collection for a circuit-riding preacher ranting against gambling and drinking. Untalented and elderly actresses and warblers, on their way out and no treat for eye or ear, were showered with silver dollars or gold nuggets to help them retire. Everybody chipped in toward the cost of a funeral for a dead hooker.

There was one type of man not included in the general saloon bonhomie. The soldier from the nearby fort was not welcome. There were three reasons for this animosity. Rightly or wrongly, the cowpuncher suspected the soldier of infecting the local parlorhouse girls with the clap or worse. The cowboy suffering from venereal disease generally did not blame the girl but the soldier who had given it to her. The military were also resented because they policed the early West, and neither cowboy nor miner had any love for that sort of thing. Finally, the independent-minded westerner despised any man who had to obey and stand at attention.

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