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Friday, October 1, 2010

"An Ordinance to Prohibit . . . Any Marriage Brokerage Business . . ." Portland, 1909

Two previous posts featured Portland press coverage of Oregon marriage agencies. In this post -- the Portland city council's 1909 reaction and more specific evidence about why many Portlanders were opposed to the agencies.

In 1909 the Portland City Council passed Ordinance 20070, "An Ordinance to Prohibit in the City of Portland, the Carrying On of Any Marriage Business, Prohibiting the Publication and Circulation of Advertisements for Matrimonial Purposes . . . " September 24, 1909 (Charter and General Ordinances of the City of Portland, Oregon in Force April 15, 1910 p. 515)

Section 1 declared that "No person shall, in the City of Portland, for hire or for any direct or indirect remuneration, conduct or carry on or cause to be conducted or carried on, any matrimonial agency, or marriage brokerage business, or introducing club, or any similar occupation or calling by whatsoever name it may be called.

Section 2 made it illegal for anyone to publish any advertisement or notice in a newspaper or magazine in the city "the substance or effect of which is that any person desires to meet or to make acquaintance of, or to correspond with, another person of the opposite sex with matrimony as the object, or that any such person desires a companion of the opposite sex."

The ordinance provided a penalty of up to $500 and ninety days in jail.

A 1915 case in which Simon Weyrick was convicted of violating the marriage brokerage ordinance suggests that law was passed because many Portlanders viewed such agencies as fronts for prostitution and the exploitation of women.  Police arrested Weyrick on June 7, 1915 for conducting a marriage bureau and confiscated his files. (S. Weyrick Held; Women Accusers," Oregonian, June 8, 1915, 4). The Oregonian ("Marriage Broker Fined," Oregonian, June 13, 1915, 2:5) reported that Weyrick would "advertise for a woman to take charge of a rooming-house, a woman companion for an elderly gentleman, or for a woman to be employed in other capacities." He asked prospective employees to come to his office and asked about marriage "to one or other gentlemen with which he was in touch" and made a "proposition" that they try "companionship for a certain period of time." Weyrick, the Oregonian concluded, might be credited with the "introduction of trial marriages in Portland."

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