Romance is a popular theme in our media culture, just behind politics, murder and mayhem. In fact, some of us may be more aware of personal entanglements of others than the details of more serious news stories. From sonnets to rom-coms, there’s never been a shortage of fictional romance, but there is something more relatable about love stories of real people; we all like to imagine there’s someone for everyone.
Before the days of digital media, the daily print news was where such stories could be found. As the popularity of newspapers began to grow in the 19th century, what was reported became tailored to readers interested in things other than straight news. Real-life romance and human-interest stories became front-page content. Courtship stories were particularly popular and began to become increasingly dramatic or unusual.
The union of an uncommon Boone County couple made national news in 1871 with the attention-grabbing headline “The Wedding of Giants.” The groom, referred to as “Captain” Bates, stood at about eight feet tall, and weighed in at 400 pounds. His blushing bride was of comparable size, though the article indicates that heels would not be an option at the wedding; she was several inches taller than her groom in bare feet. The wedding of another distinctive couple from Rabbit Hash made the news in 1899. The 62-year-old bride was a diminutive woman of under four feet tall, weighing around 100 pounds. Her betrothed was a man half her age and twice her height and weight, proof that age and size are just numbers.
In 1913, a romantic article ran in The Evening Chronicle of Charlotte, North Carolina, a timeless tale of two lonely hearts who found one another. In the story, a man from our own Constance, KY found a bottle floating in the river, with the name and address of a woman in West Virginia who sought a pen-pal. He responded and they began to write each other. Before long, the message in a bottle took them all the way to the altar.
The Cincinnati Enquirer aimed for the emotional reader with an unexpected story in 1904. A young couple who, like Romeo and Juliet, hailed from Verona (though in their case it was Kentucky, not Italy.) For unknown reasons, they were not wed at home, surrounded by family; they chose to elope to Cincinnati. It was reported that, throughout the ceremony, the bride remained calm and serene, while her groom was overcome with tears of joy. Does it get any more romantic than that?
By Hillary Delaney, Local History Associate