Lonely Hearts Clubs before the song?
May 21, 2014 1:23 PM   Subscribe

What, exactly, was a Lonely Hearts' Club? Was it a personals ad service? A "marriage bureau" such as one still sees in societies where arranged marriage is common? An actual club of people that would put on events? All of the above?

The topic is hard to search for since it is shared with one of the most popular songs ever, but I found some results in in Google Books. E.g.: "The Lonely Hearts Club furnished its members with lengthy lists of possible social and matrimonal aspirants for a stipulated fee of $1.00 per year." However, I would love to find some sources that engage more fully with what they were and how they operated.
posted by wnissen to Human Relations (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Sorry, no sources, but I always interpreted it as a mix between a social club, matchmaking service, and a (non-sexual) escort service.
posted by trivia genius at 1:46 PM on May 21, 2014

The wikipedia redirect page for Lonely Hearts mentions that this is a Britishism for "personal ad," if that helps?

It also mentions Francesca Beauman's book Shapely Ankle Preferr'd: A History of the Lonely Hearts Ad 1695-2010, which might contain more insights.
posted by jessicapierce at 2:10 PM on May 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

It was just another name for a mail order matchmaking service. Here's an ad for one in Popular Science in 1946.

And they used to call murderers who met their victims that way lonely hearts killers, much like today's Craigslist killers.
posted by interplanetjanet at 2:38 PM on May 21, 2014 [2 favorites]

"Then, ‘Lonely Hearts Club’, that’s a good one. There’s lot of those about, the equivalent of a dating agency now." - Paul McCartney

So you'd send your details to an office, that would keep them on file, and in exchange either set up meetings or send out a list of potential partners, as well as serving as go-betweens for initial communication. One from the 1940s, for those bereaved or estranged by war, is portrayed in Sarah Waters' The Night Watch, which got adapted for television a couple of years ago.
posted by holgate at 2:50 PM on May 21, 2014

A newspaper article based on the aforementioned "Shapely Ankle Preferr'd."
posted by calgirl at 2:52 PM on May 21, 2014

As an expansion, not about a club but the term itself: Miss Lonelyhearts by Nathanael West, 1933.

"In the story, Miss Lonelyhearts is an unnamed male newspaper columnist writing an advice column that the newspaper staff considers a joke. As Miss Lonelyhearts reads letters from desperate New Yorkers [...]"
posted by komara at 2:52 PM on May 21, 2014

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