The matrimonial achievements of Dr. Witzhoff (see note below), the gentleman with the brilliant black eyes and the 120 wives, have brought down a storm of denunciations on the head of the marriage broke. This functionary, so we are told, is frequently the arch-bigamist’s advance agent in his adventures in the matrimonial field, and, according to the generous estimate of one New York feminine social reformer, is directly responsible for 50,000 ruined lives in America.

Though marriage broking as it is at present carried on both in the United States and in England, says a writer in the London Chronicle, may sometimes be open to grave evils and abuses, the very fact of his existence and the enormous number of his clients is a tacit recognition that the marriage broker fulfills a real social want.

The necessity for the marriage broker and bureau is, of course, by no means the same everywhere. In the country, where there is still a social life, a continual round of garden and tennis parties in the summer and dances and at homes in the winter provide excellent facilities for making acquaintances. But the young provincial man or woman whose lot is cast in London, the City of Deadly Solitude – and there are tens of thousands of them – has no such opportunity for making friends.

Living in the loneliness of lodgings without friends at hand, except for the casual business acquaintances who may or may not be congenial associates, the solitary exile is completely cut off from the companionship of women of his own social position These lonely ones – and they form the great marriageable mass of the community – want opportunities for cultivating each other’s acquaintance.

But there is no kind-hearted matchmaker at hand to watch over the destinies of would-be lovers, to pave the way to those friendly meetings which are the beginning of wet closer relations, and so the young man of limited income, making his way in London without friends, too often wrecks his career at the very outset by an unsuitable marriage

True, there is the church, with its centuries of accumulated experience, which still leads its children to the altar. The churches and especially those offshoots of church life, the Sunday-school, the social institute, and even the mutual improvement association, are by no means to be despised as matrimonial agencies, and, having no money-making ends to serve, the churches have no inducement to force on undesirable unions. But the young provincial during his first years of emancipation from home restraint too often keeps outside the churches.

There is also the match-making magistrate, who, with delightful irresponsibility, offers the young ladies and gentlemen brought before him the alternative of “marriage or a month.” But as some evasion of the law is an essential preliminary to securing the benevolent interest of the bench, this course is obviously not to be generally recommended.

Dr. George A. Witzhoff, Bigamist

Dr. George A. Witzhoff, Bigamist

Two remaining alternatives are open to the lonely ones. They may advertise in the newspapers which have become a recognized medium for obtaining life partners. Not long ago a woman journalist, to test the extent to which candidates for Cupid resorted to the press advertised for a husband. With commendable modesty, she described herself as twenty-six years old, of moderately good looks, and possessed of a small but assured income. To her intense surprise, she received one thousand replies to this not very alluring advertisement. The writers ranged from an inmate of Lambeth workhouse to a general in the army, and the bulk of the applicants apparently belonged to the educated classes and were obviously eager to find a wife of their own social status.

The other great avenue to the altar is undoubtedly the professional matrimonial agent, and the number of people of both sexes who invoke his aid is not only very large, but its tendency is to increase. The marriage-broker is, as most people
know, a Gentile edition of that ancient and honorable official, the Jewish Shadchan, who suggests to parents where there is an eligible man or maid, obtains authoritative information on the important subject of dowries and conducts the preliminary overtures.

One highly successful marriage broker admits to having engineered 10,000 marriages. This marriage broker conducts his extensive operations on strictly business lines, charges 2.5 percent. on the capital value of the husband, and also exacts a fee from the lady. He estimates that over 60 percent. of the marriages arranged by him are successful, and though it is naturally a difficult matter to discover to what extent the custom of seeking happiness at a marriage bureau really obtains among the middle classes, there can be no doubt that many happy unions have resulted from it.

A case in point is that of a naval officer’s daughter, who, finding herself unappropriated at the fairly mature age of forty-three, threw conventionality to the winds and became one of the marriage broker’s clients. A gentlewoman by birth and education, with no special claim to good looks, and only a small income, she met, under the wing of the matrimonial go-between, a middle-aged stockbroker, a widower with an income of £17000. The marriage broker made all the necessary inquiries. and the middle-aged couple decided to marry, with the very happiest results.

Exhaustive investigations into the methods of the existing agencies show the urgent need for the speedy evolution of the marriage broker, who requires to be raised from a mere money-making speculator in human happiness to the dignity of a recognized public institution. A nice girl, it may be argued, would shrink from the plainspokenness of the marriage bureau register, which baldly announces that the candidate is five feet six inches in height, of medium weight, and average good looks, cheerful and domesticated; but there is nothing really sordid in the frank recognition of the fact that marriages contracted in this matter-of-fact old earth are in their genesis, at any rate, founded to some extent on businesslike relations. Not sentiment alone, but the great natural law of give and take, is at the basis of the marriage relationship, and once this is admitted, the proposition to establish matrimonial bureaux, social marriage clubs – call them what you will – where the millions can meet in social intercourse, will be regarded as a wise and necessary step.

The state recognizes marriage as an institution designed for the happiness of mankind. Why, then, should it not go a step further and provide honorable machinery for the making of marriages?

Source: The Washington Post, Sunday, October 15, 1905

NOTE: Dr. George A. Witzhoff, a bigamist, was arrested in Bristol, England in October 1905, for bigamy and given a long term in prison. He was wanted in many cities in the United States. Witzhoff confessed to marrying and robbing thirty-two women. Most all of the women he married lived in the United States, and were secured through the matrimonial agencies.