Friday, October 24, 2014

Movies In History: Society of the Military Horse • View topic - Fury

From the shorter version of this review, at Society of the Military Horse • View topic - Fury

Fury. 2014, directed by David Ayer.


This movie is touring now and has been subject to a lot of anticipation by fans of history and war films. We'll admit here to being a fan of both, with the latter genera being a subset of the former.  It'll probably have quite a few fans, but for those who watch movies closely for detail with an eye towards actual events I suspect it will be a disappointment.  It was with us.

Character development in the film is very poor and U.S. troops are portrayed in a fashion that might be more accurate for the Soviet army of the same period.  The film takes the Gritty Old Guys mixed in with New Guy they don't want to know theme about five notches higher than the norm.  This theme is a stock item in just about every war movie made since 1950 and has been ramped up just about ever time it's been done since Fuller's The Steel Helmet.  Interestingly, its generally absent from films prior to that, and it seems that the entire plot device might have been lifted from S. L. A. Marshall's now discredited study of World War Two infantrymen.  According to later studies of World War Two combat troops, such as The Deadly Brotherhood, this portrayal is false in general, but this film takes this cliche as one of the essential plot devices of the entire film. It isn't as if anyone who hasn't watched a war film hasn't seen this done before, and done better (Big Red One, Platoon, Saving Private Ryan). For a cinematic portrayal of U.S. troops in action, Battleground or Band of Brothers would be a much better option.

In terms of combat scenes, the film would have actually made more sense if it depicted the Red Army in the closing days of the war, rather than the U.S. Army. There was, of course, fighting right up until the last day of the war, but if this film was taken to be accurate it would have us believe that the entire German military was fighting tooth and nail right to the bitter end, when in fact by the stage of the war portrayed the German forces were collapsing in the west with a large number of prisoners being taken. Dealing with floods of German troops attempting to surrender was a major movement and logistical problem for the western allies by that time of the war and the problem became so acute that some units simply took up waiving surrendering Germans towards their rear and German soldiers who were attempting to surrender by that point in the war might end up behind Allied lines for a day or more simply attempting to find a unit that would actually take their surrender.

This movie is yet another one that has built upon the recent trend of showing American soldiers killing POWs.  Studies on this topic show that that outright murder of German POWs was quite rare, although it was the case in any army that the first few minutes of a POW's capture was always very risky.  If a soldier lived through his attempt to surrender and made it for a few minutes, he generally would come out okay.  Wholesale killing of regular German POWs generally did not occur, although you can find the rare example of the contrary.  Refusing to take the surrender of SS troops did occur in some units post June 1944, but even that was pretty rare and tended to be concentrated in units which had direct experience with SS troops killing Allied POWs.  Just as an example of how rare this was, late war a U.S. unit overran an SS unit that had just massacred a group of Jewish prisoners it was moving from one location to another, by burning them alive in a barn, and even in that instance the U.S. troops didn't kill the SS troops, although they hotly debated doing so.

Where this cinematic myth really got launched is difficult to tell, but it is depicted in context in The Longest Day, although in that historically accurate version of Cornelius Ryan's book, its shown in the context of close combat with the U.S. soldier not knowing what the German soldier was attempting, and not understanding what he was saying.  This scene was almost identically taken for Saving Private Ryan, but converted in what is otherwise a very fine film into one in which U.S. Rangers purposely shoot German soldiers trying to surrender, after taunting them.  It's picked up again in Band of Brothers, but in that case the murder is suggested rather than depicted, and it is in fact based upon what was a real event in that instance, although an extraordinary event.  In Fury, however, its shown as routine and even in an unusually sadistic episode in one scene.  Almost no soldier in this movie, even those depicted as highly religious, object, which would be quite unlikely.  Of note, the murder suggested in Band of Brothers was controversial amongst members of that unit, all of whom were elite troops.

German troops in Fury are portrayed as stunningly well equipped and uniformed, when period photographs show a lot of them to pretty worn by that stage of the war. This film takes place over a few days starting in April 1945 (we don't know exactly when it ends, but it would be in April or May 1945).  By April 1945 the German army was using a mix of everything it had and exhibiting a decline in equipment quality in everything.  They were, of course, still quite capable of fighting well, but they were not the same in terms of equipment that they'd been even a few months prior.  Even Hitler Youth units are shown as well equipped and uniformed when period photos show them looking mostly like a bunch of ill equipped scared children.

On the depiction of children as combatants, the film is sympathetic for the most part to the plight of impressed German children, and it doesn't seek to be generally harsh toward them. One scene does depict German girls as being impressed into service, and I generally do not think that happened.  The Nazi regime never was able to accommodate itself to a really full mobilization of women, and indeed it generally viewed their place as being at home, with some exceptions, even late war.  Mobilized German women tended to work in select industries, or in work details, and I know of no instances of them being mobilized as combatants.

Scenes early in the film depicting an armored attack against German troops supported by anti tank guns were well well done. A scene depicting Sherman's in action against a Tiger tank is interesting, but probably overdone. Still, it is interesting.  The Tiger used in the film is the sole working example of that type of tank. The depiction of munitions bouncing off armor is scary and probably pretty realistic. Also realistic is the portray of a penetrating shot as fatal to a tank and its crew even without an explosion, which is rarely shown in regards to armor.

The film is extremely violent, as one would of course expect for a war film, as war is violent.  Nonetheless, without trying to spoil to much of it for folks who might be inclined to view it, at least to some degree, particularly in later stages of the film, a person has the strong sense that they were lifted wholly out of The Wild Bunch, but not in a way that's as novel as they were in that earlier film, and even parts of that film begin to strain a viewers suspension of reality.  Indeed, the film might be somewhat described as Peckinpahesque, except that Sam Peckinpah had a much more developed talent for being able to use violence as a vehicle to bring up troubling moral issues and contradictions in his characters, particularly those depicted in The Wild Bunch, which was specifically filmed to expose Peckinpah's feelings about the type of character that had only recently been portrayed when that film was made in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.  In this film there seems to have been a similar attempt to portray some similar moral contradictions in regards to the crew, but it doesn't come off very well.  By the films end the director was resorting to the fairly free use of Biblical quotes to try to get this across.

I will note that the film did portray the subject of religion fairly frequently, and in a less cynical manner than had tended to be the case in films of the 60s and 70s.  This seems to be a bit of an evolving trend.  Shia LeBeouf's character; Boyd "Bible" Swan is probably the best acted character in the move and he is shown as devoutly observant in some unspecified Protestant denomination.  It's hard to imagine a similar portrayal, for example, in another "team" movie Kelly's Heroes and in the famed The Dirty Dozen the only religious character is a bad guy.  The main protagonist of the film, Norman Ellison, is a quietly observant Episcopalian who refuses to compromise his conscience.  Although its not apparent until the very end, even the not very likable Sgt Don Collier, played by Brad Pitt, has an extensive enough religious knowledge to be able to quote the Bible, showing the degree to which he's morally conflicted perhaps.
One minor, and it is minor, plus of the film is that its pretty decent in material details, which those with an eye for history always look for, and which has tended to be a high expectation for this moving going set since Saving Private Ryan really raised the bar in this area. The Shermans are real Shermans (although I don't know what model, there's at least two different models). The Tiger tank is a real Tiger tank. The Germans are armed correctly with the correct small arms as are the U.S. troops, although the use of a Stg44 as a captured tank small arm is unlikely.  Crew use of the M3 submachinegun, however, is absolutely correct.

And, and this is unusual, the use of horses by the Germans is very frequently shown and even shows up as a routine item in the dialog. Indeed, that part is quite surprising.  German officers are shown as mounted, correctly, in more than one scene. The large scale use of horses is noted in dialog including a query by one soldier about whether a lot of men or horses had been noted in a certain area, indicative of German activity.

Some small material details are intriguing but unexplained. Brad Pitt's character Sgt. Collier has an English last name but speaks perfect German with that never being explained. German speaking American solders were not uncommon at that time, but that's almost always because they had grown up in a German speaking family.  A little explanation on that  character trait would have been nice, even if only in terms of a vague suggestion as to the answer.  Sgt. Collier carries a double action revolver and wears three strap cavalry boots, sort of suggesting pre war service in the cavalry, which his character would have been old enough to easily have had.  Boots of that type were almost always associated with mounted service and continued to be manufactured until just after World War Two.  Photographs of tankers wearing them do exist, but such photographs are always associated with units which had at one time been horse cavalry.  To simply find a tanker wearing them, even a NCO, would have been unlikely otherwise.  Double action revolvers had remained common in U.S. Cavalry well into the war as they were thought safer for mounted men than the M1911 automatic pistol, although most cavalrymen carried the M1911.  Some tankers were issued double action revolvers early in the war, however.

Having said that, the movie is otherwise a disappointment and I'd skip it if I hadn't already seen it.

The "They Were" Farmers, Soliders or Lawyers threads now pages.

The "They Were" farmers, lawyers or soldiers posts, which were amongst the most read here, have been made into separate pages should anyone be looking for them.

They just grew too big for posts.  They'll still be updated as before.

Other threads on hunters, teachers, and clerics are still posts, for the time being.

Friday Farming: Sheep

Thursday, October 23, 2014

ATVs. Boo. Hiss.

I'm going to finally admit it, I'm sick of ATVs and I'm pretty darned sick of people who make excuses for using ATVs on wildlands.

 ATV tracks, off road, at over 8,000 feet in the Big Horns.

This frankly has more to do with my status of being a hunter, than anything else, and I'll admit that I'm somewhat hypocritical about this topic, for reasons that I'll mention below. But I really, truly, have had enough of them.

The reason I don't like ATVs is that I value wildlands.  I value them as a livestock owner, I value them as a hunter, I value them as a fisherman, and I just value them as somebody who loves nature.  ATVs are the antithesis of everything in nature.

Now, in terms of being hypocritical, I freely note here that I grew up with vehicles and have had 4x4 vehicles my entire life.

 My first car, before I was old enough to drive. A 1958 M38A1 Jeep.  I didn't put the big dent in the fender.

I grew up with vehicles and have always used vehicles to access nature. And as an owner of a large number of 4x4 vehicles over the years, I've never been without a vehicle that could take me way out back.  This admittedly is contrary to the natural state, and I've written about that here before.  One of the things that I think its most difficult for us, as modern people, to appreciate is the revolution in access to wildlands that automobiles brought about.   Not only was it revolutionary, but it frankly changed our relationship with it, making it impossible for many to appreciate the expanse, time and distance, and also making it so we tend to travel insulated from nature, rather than in it.

Me, in another context.  Nothing makes you appreciate the vastness of an area more than traveling it at, in essence, nature's pace.

But even with that, at least vehicles essentially basically stopped somewhere.  People drove distances, often distances that would have taken days to cover in prior eras, but they did get out and start walking (or riding on a horse/mule).  

ATVs have changed that.  

Now I constantly see people who have 3/4 ton or 1 ton trucks who are hauling them up to the back country. The ATVs have grown larger and now often take up the entire bed of the truck.  Once they get to the end of the road, they unload the ATV and then drive over the prairie, making little roads like the one depicted above on it. They basically never dismount.

I really question the effectiveness of this for hunting, as ATVs are noisy and a man on foot, or on horseback, can usually hear them miles and miles away.  I've taken game animals in areas where the ATV drivers had passed them by, the animals taking cover well before the ATV drove on by.  But that they have an impact on wildlands, making them less wild, cannot be denied.

That ATV owners know this is pretty plain. Almost every ATV owner I know, save for a few honest ones, who use them for hunting will claim "I only use them to haul things out."  Well, bull.  The "I only" claim is the classic claim made by people who know they are doing things wrong, and want to claim some legitimate reason to excuse it.  Like people who only claim to buy certain magazines for the articles, the overwhelming owners of ATVs in hunting and fishing country are using them for the very thing they claim they are not.

In recent years around here there's been an increasing number of areas where signs stating "No ATVs" have sprung up.  Quite a few of these are walk in access areas, and the ranchers don't want the ATVs in there wrecking the land and scaring cattle.  Indeed, around here, ATVs reached their zenith and began to decline in livestock work quite some time ago, and the most common use of ATVs I see now amongst ranchers is in the form of very small trucks that they use for fencing or to travel from one cow camp to another.  Herding cattle with them is mostly out now.

About the only use of ATVs I don't object to is that by people who just flat out like ATVs and drive them on back roads to drive them.  Most of those people are honest about that.  I see them on the roads in the summer, with an increasing number thankfully wearing helmets now.  But generally those people  aren't driving over grasslands with them or hoping sagebrush with them, and then later claiming that "I only" use them for this or that.  Indeed, if a person "is only" using an ATV to haul game out, it's a pretty expensive way to do that.  It'd be cheaper to hire a rancher to haul one out with a horse.  But the evidence is that the "only" class doesn't "only" do what they claim.

And I'd like to see the use of ATVs on the prairie and in the mountains go.  I know that I'll never live to see that, but I wish I would see that. At some point people who love the wildlands have to say enough is enough, and keep them out.  And, frankly, at some point as a people we have to admit that all humans have a natural inclination towards laziness and if we want to really live, we have to resist it.  Getting out and walking would be a good way to start.


I listen to Meet The Press and This Week via podcast.  That means I usually catch up with a couple of days after its aired.

Recently, it's been all about Ebola. Given that its Ebola coverage wall to wall, pretty much (ISIL manages to edge in too) I was stunned when Chris Todd, the new moderator, allowed that the press had been telling everyone not to panic, but now we have a US death. . .

Really, the press has been telling us not to panic?  I must have missed that due to all the panicking in the press.

In the real world, the chances of Ebola becoming a major non African disease, or even a pan African disease, are non existent.  It will not happen.  It has killed 4,000 people so far, mostly in Liberia, where conditions are ideal for it (although one sizable Liberian Goodyear company town manged to halt it there).  That's 4,000 out of a population of about 4,000,000.  In contrast, in 2011 the flu killed 53,826 ,granted out of a population of about 350,000,000.  Still that rates comparable.  Why aren't we panicking about the flu?

We do, of course, from time to time, but only when it looks like a flu like the 1918 Spanish Flu might be lurking about. But the regular old flu is quite the killer, and to Americans, a bigger danger than Ebola.


To my huge surprise, the topic of Ebola has now entered this year's Wyoming's gubernatorial race. 

Back during the primary we saw three Republicans running, those being the sitting Governor; Matt Mead, the current controversial Superintendent of Education; Cindy Hill, and  Tea Party sometimes third party candidate Dr. Taylor Haynes.  Both Hill and Haynes were in the Tea Party camp, with Haynes expressing some radical ideas on public lands ownership.  Those ideas enjoyed some popularity amongst Tea Party elements in the GOP, but overall those views must have had little popularity with Wyoming Republicans as both Hill and Haynes did poorly in the primary.

During the election the Republicans agreed amongst themselves to support whoever won, but that quickly broke down with Hill, who flat out refused to support Mead.  Locally, one Tea Party candidate that lost wrote an op-ed in the Tribune blasting the voters as being misinformed, which didn't sit very well with the people who read it, based on the reactions.  Still, yesterday Haynes broke his pledge and announced that he's running as an independent.

His stated basis for running was to give the taxpayers options and also because he feels that the state's preparation for Ebola is poor.

I generally don't express political opinions here, but the Ebola topic being interjected into Wyoming's gubernatorial race is just silly.  Haynes is a physician as well, which to my mind means he must at least have doubts about his stated reason for running as being a valid one, or he's so focused on hypothetical medical emergencies that he's grossly overemphasizing them.  Ebola isn't an American health emergency and its certainly not a Wyoming one.  It doesn't do Dr. Haynes very much credit to base his stated reason for running on Ebola.

Today In Wyoming's History: Judge Skavdahl rules on same gender marriage case....

A few days ago I wrote a post here about the history of marriage. Last Friday, one of the three Federal judges in Wyoming struck down Wyoming's statute on marriage, which I've written about here:

Today In Wyoming's History: Judge Skavdahl rules on same gender marriage case....:

I haven't actually read Judge Skavdahl's decision, so my commenting on some aspects of it may be bad form, but I'm going to do so anyway.  One of the things I've often struck by in legal matters is how people and the press often fail to understand what a ruling actually does, or may do, and that even lawyers fail to understand how the law of unintended consequences tends to apply to big legal decisions and even the amendments of laws. For example, it's probable that the original proponents of no fault divorce never guessed that it would help usher in an age when many people would live in the same circumstances that previously would have been regarded as a common law marriage, but with no recognized marriage at all.

Anyhow, amongst the interesting questions is this. Does Judge Skavdahl's ruling operate the way he probably intended it to operate, or is the door now open to just argue that henceforth marriages in the state can't occur until a new law is drafted?  The existing law starts off reading as follows:
20-1-101. Marriage a civil contract.

is a civil contract between a male and a female person to which the consent of the
parties capable of contracting is essential.
If that's what a marriage in Wyoming will be until Thursday, when Judge Skavdahl's ruling takes effect, can it now be argued that the definition of marriage fails under his ruling, and they just won't be at all?

It's an interesting question, but it's one that nobody is actually asking. And nobody will unless somebody tries to argue that in court, which would be unlikely.  Generally, nobody has an obvious interest in arguing that, which doesn't mean that it won't occur.  Probably if it were to occur, the Court would just "fix" the ruling to fit the desired goal.

That's basically what's happened in the overall context of the same gender marriage issue.  No matter what side of the issue a person is on, it's really basically an example of judicial legislation, although people aren't arguing that.  For those who take an original intent approach to Constitutional interpretation, the fact is that under the Natural Law marriages were always regarded as strictly male/female.  I know that people like to cite some odd examples, but they are extremely rare and usually rapidly break down under analysis. At the time the Constitution was written, the drafters were all familiar only with marriage as it then existed, and same gender unions would not only have been regarded as impossible, but illegal.  So any originalist interpretation of the Constitution would have to take that view into mind.  A person might still be able to reach the same results, by citing changes in other states and the Equal Protection provisions of the 14th Amendment, and that might be what the Court has done here, but that's a different position that what people conceive as having occurred.

Okay, on unintended consequences, it's almost certain that the one I noted above will not occur, but there are a host that I suspect will, and it will be interesting to see how they develop.

One that I'm almost certain will now occur is that "poly" marriages, i.e., more than one man or woman in a union will become inevitable.  I just don't really see how the courts can't find them constitutional under the same set of rationales that were used here.  At least one Federal Court has already issued that ruling, but then held its decision in abeyance.  This may seem far fetched overall, but only to people who don't live in the West where there are religious groups, presently small in number, that already espouse this view and always have.  So I think that's a given.

One unexpected probable result, however, is that in really thinking about the issue in a civil context, I suspect that the actual impact of the decision only effects something in actual legal terms to a very, very small degree, and ironically, in a way that the proponents of the change probably wouldn't fully want.  The real impact, in so far as I can tell, is mostly just on the division of property in a divorce.

The reason for this is that the civil law impact of marriage has been reduced pretty much to the provision of naturally born children (although even here it is greatly diminished) and property.  These features of marriage as a civil institution have always been part of the reason that it is a civil institution.  At first blush, a person might think that well of course, now those apply here, but that might not be fully correct.

It's incorrect, to be sure, as the "natural born" children part of it doesn't occur with same gender couples.  Yes, they can adopt and they can use surrogates, but they could before and the legal relationships that causes are already controlled by the law. So there's no changed there.

There is, however, in regards to property acquired during a marriage as opposed to a couple simply living together outside of marriage. Generally, the law doesn't control the distribution of property by break ups or death of couples that aren't married but living together, save for circumstances in which they'd contracted in some fashion to address that or there's a dispute about who owns what, which is fairly rare.  Now the law of marriage will apply.

That probably will have relatively low impact in testamentary proceedings, but it will now definitely bring in the law of divorce.  So an irony now exists in that one of the first impacts of a law changing the definition of marriage also expands out just a bit who is subject to the law of divorce.

Another area it will definitely impact is the area of insurance and benefits where a general "spousal" benefit exists, although that impact will be smaller than supposed because in the case of governmental employees it seemed to be expanding towards a "partner" definition in general.  It'll also impact the couples tax structure, although again a person has to wonder at which point a "partner" definition is brought into that, or at what point single people complain that tax benefits to the married no longer serve their original purpose and are themselves unconstitutional.  I think that effort would fail, but a person could at least argue that.  Probably not very successfully, however.

Another irony of this is that it takes this issue away as one that existed, to the extent it did, in the current Governor's race. Governor Mead is almost certain to win reelection, but he was getting asked about this a fair amount by the press.  At least the local Casper Star Tribune was clear in its view that the state should change the definition of marriage, and as the Tribune is present at every debate, this was going to come up every single time.  Mead, to his credit, was clear that he based his views both on his philosophical  position and his his religious views.  Not every candidate would be willing to admit this his religious views (Mead is an Episcopalian) had a role in it.  And citing to conservative Episcopal views in a state where the Episcopal church has really declined in numbers, and where that church has been in turmoils over this issue amongst others,is a pretty frank and bold position to take.  Now, however, this is removed as an issue for him, and should he decide to run for this or any other office in the future, he can take credit for his views but not have to live with the matter, maybe, as a continuing controversy. That all presumes, of course, that the Supreme Court doesn't enter into this debate soon, which is not a safe assumption at all.

If Mead is off the controversy hook here a bit, a group that may not be are people with strong religious convictions on this issue who hold public office in some fashion.  This is an issue that has been little explored, but this ruling might spark a crisis of conscious in some of these people, or perhaps might not, I honestly don't know. What is the case now is that we will have a situation in which County Clerks and Circuit Court Judges will be asked to issue marriage licenses and perform civil marriages and some of the people in those office, and perhaps more importantly some future potential office holders, may now have to reassess their ability to hold these offices, I'm just not sure. At least Catholics, Orthodox Christians, Muslims, Mormons  and Orthodox Jews hold religious views that regard some unions as immoral.  At the current time Catholics and Mormons are a significant portion of the state's demographics and also a significant portion of the legal community, with representatives on the bench as well.  Greek Orthodox Christians are a significant demographic in some, but not all, Wyoming towns and likewise are fairly well represented in the legal community, although the only Greek Orthodox judge, a District Court judge, retired some years ago.  Muslims are a very small demographic in the state at the present time (as opposed the Catholic and Mormon demographic which are growing), although they're interestingly well represented in the medical community.  Orthodox Jews, however, are nearly completely absent from the state.  How this shakes out I do not know, and it should be noted that none of these demographics has so far found it morally objectionable to issue marriage licenses in the case of divorce, which some also have moral objections to, so perhaps its a non issue.  It comes to mind, however, as a County Clerk in an eastern state just resigned from that office last week, feeling morally obligated to do so, so perhaps this issue might exist.  If it does, this will actually be a real problem as demographics that are very well represented in the state should not be excluded from holding office, and if they do this will operate as  type of prejudice that will have real, although as yet unknown, negative consequences.

On other things about the decision, while I'm not in the habit of criticizing Federal judges, I do think that Judge Skavdahl was very unwise issuing his decision so rapidly as the rapid release inevitably discredits it.  Those who are familiar with this process know that whenever a judge released a decision that quickly, he basically had his mind made up going into the hearing.  Generally, that doesn't bother lawyers, but it does bother the members of the public in matters of significance.  That should have been on his mind as the general history of public respect for Federal decisions on decisive issues is that the public doesn't respect them.  The Federal courts already have pretty low credit in Wyoming, as they're constantly overruling the state on matters of importance to the state, although that's usually the D. C. Circuit.  But beyond that, big socially divisive issues, while the Federal Court has jurisdiction over many of them, generally do not sit well with those on the loosing side if they are judge made.  The case of Roe v. Wade is the classic example, as its never been accepted by a large portion of the American public and this line of decisions is unlikely to with those who disagree with them either.  It's probably partially for that reason that the U.S. Supreme Court chose not to take it up right away.  People on both the left and the right are constantly complaining of "judge made law", and here in this area the change in the definition of marriage is becoming increasingly judge made.  When so many people feel alienated from the courts and disrespect them rushing to a judgment was foolish.

It was also frankly foolish to take the matter up on an expedited basis.  The better course would have been to take it up when it came up in the natural progression of the case and then rule on it. That does involve a lot of delay due to the naturally slow progression of a case, in the eyes of the public, but it doesn't look that way like the judge made his mind up immediately and forced a rapid decision, which is how this otherwise will look to many. Additionally, there was no real harm in delay in the legal sense, as changing the definition of something that's been read one way for centuries can't rationally create an emergency situation.  Of course, the argument would be that the 10th Circuit's decision created that emergency, but that too would have been a reason to go slow, as if the court had, chances were good that the 10th itself would have taken this matter up or perhaps the U.S. Supreme Court, and the local Federal court would never had to have done so, maybe.  Now it has, and some are celebrating, others are upset, and yet others will note that the same judge recently made a ruling on the Federal health care act here that didn't sit really well with everyone.  Sometimes proceeding slowly is a better approach to take.


A couple of additional comments, as this story moves along.

The impact of the ruling came a couple of days early, as the Attorney General determined not to appeal. Given the recent 10th Circuit Court of Appeals decisions that Judge Skavdahl relied upon, the Attorney General was correct.  No point in doing a doomed appeal.  It wouldn't even serve to try to get these issues to the U.S. Supreme Court, for those who hope to do that, as the existing opinions already  stand and that did not occur.

However, the Federal District Court in Peurto Rico issues an opinion going the opposite directly that was scathing in its view of the recent decision such as the 10th Circuits.  Whatever a person may think of this issue one way or another, that decision is undoubtedly the most legally correct.  Whether it will stand or not is yet to be known, as presumably the loosing parties will appeal to the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals. For those hoping in a split in the circuits, this might be it, or it might actually present another basis for a Petition for a Writ of Certiorari, as its so clear in its views.

On another matter, here in this county we saw the spectacle of a non denominational woman cleric loitering around the courthouse all day hoping to find some same gender couples to marry, and finding one.  There's something unseemly about that.  Presumably any same gender couples that determined to marry weren't really looking into just bumping into a person commissioned to do it casually, which another female cleric who was supporting this movement noted in an interview yesterday. 

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Wars and Rumors of War

You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed.
Matthew 24:6

This is a new "trailing thread" on the topic of wars that are ongoing.  It's just informational, so to speak.

Quite frankly, in spite of what we might think, the world has an all time low inventory of war. War has gone from something of a near human norm to a freakish but still occurring exception.  Indeed, violence in the world is at an all time low. 

But, wars are still history, still interesting, and still important. So here we have a thread on a topic written by every commentator on the human condition, ever.


For our opening entry:  October 18, 2014

1. The Kurds in Syria have introduced conscription of military aged men in their zone of control. The conscription is not limited to Kurds. This has sparked protest by human rights groups, but it shows the extent to which the Kurds now act as a sovereign more and more every day.

2. Fierce street by street fighting between ISIL and the Kurds continues in Kobane, on the Syrian Turkish border.  Analysts are surprised for some reason, counting ISIL's advanced weaponry (some courtesy of the United States, via capture from the pathetic Iraqi Army,), but that discounts the fact that having weponry is one thing, knowing how to use it quite another.  The Kurds have a long history of infantry and irregular combat experience, so they're inherited knowledge is pretty vast.

3. The Egyptian air force has hit Islamist targets outside of Benghazi in Libya, which is undergoing a battle pitting a former Libyan general against Islamist forces.  This reflects the Egyptian military's understanding that the best interest of that state are found in defeating these extremist groups, of which they have their own.


October 22, 2014

Canada suffers the second home grown terrorist attack in a week. In the first attack, a convert to Islam drove his car into one in which Canadian soldiers were riding. Today, another convert to Islam killed a soldier standing guard at Canada's memorial to its unknown solders and then entered the parliament building, where he was killed by the Sergeant At Arms, Kevin Vickers, a distinguished retired member of the RCMP..

Business Machines of Antiquity: Check Writing Machine

This machine has shown up on display in our office.  I don't know where it came from, and I really don't know how they were used.  My guess is that they were just a crisp means of drafting checks, but that is a guess.

And the same as to this one.  It clearly served the same purpose, but exactly how they were used, I don't know. Perhaps they did nothing other than serve as a clear way to print checks.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Wyoming Fact and Fiction: Wyomingite

Wyoming Fact and Fiction: Wyomingite

News from other countries

Every once and awhile you catch news from other countries which reminds you how different they are from your own.

I caught a couple of news stories from Ireland this past week in this category.  In one, a member of the Dail, the Irish parliament, was discussing a law that would require listing fathers on birth certificates, but in arguing her point in favor of it, she noted that "Celtic Tiger" immigrants had improved the looks of the Irish and the country needed to be mindful of expanding its gene pool.


I can't imagine a member of Congress saying such a thing.  Shoot, I can't really imagine any rational politician, no matter what a person's view of the proposed law may be, making that particular argument.

The second article noted that an Irish politician had recently accused the IRA of having shot individuals who it suspected (rather, probably knew) abused children.  I don't know the details of this, and if that meant its own members or what.  Gerry Adams, the leader of Sinn Fein, the political party that basically is the IRA, denied the claim, but his denial was in the from that essentially made it an admission.  He noted in his denial that one of the reasons that it was the wrong thing to do is that it failed to take into account the financial and social consequences of such murders on the families of the children.

Well, the IRA is a terrorist organization, so that it would use violence is not surprising, but that it used it in this rough policing fashion is.  And it also demonstrates how persistent the "old law" is.  Not the written law, but the harsh primitive law that all humans seem to have deep within them somewhere, and which seems to recognize the death penalty as the penalty for every serious transgression.  Now, I'm not advocating that by any means, but its interesting how quickly people seem to resort to it either in their hearts, or by their actions if they actually can.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Random Snippets: Occupational fates in Nazi Germany

The number of people who entered the fields of science, law and engineering went down in Germany during the Third Reich.

That law would decline in Nazi Germany makes sense.  In a society whose government is criminal what point would there be in becoming a lawyer?  That science and engineering would decline is a surprise however, but it did.  Science suffered in part because the Nazification of the sciences made them unscientific.

Medicine, curiously, saw a rise in entrants.

BBC News - Viewpoint: How WW1 changed aviation forever

BBC News - Viewpoint: How WW1 changed aviation forever

Today In Wyoming's History: 50th Anniversary of the Oil Bowl

Today In Wyoming's History: 50th Anniversary of the Oil Bowl: I was remiss in timely noting it, but October 3 saw the 50th anniversary of the Oil Bowl. This Oil Bowl.(it's not the only one nationwid...

A split of governance on the Wind River Reservation.

I'm a member of the bar of the Tribal Court on the Wind River Indian Reservation.  I'm not a member of either tribe but simply allowed to practice law there.  I've had several cases in Tribal Court and I've tried a civil jury trial there, which is a fairly rare occurrence.  Indeed, at the time I tried the case there, I could find no other lawyers who'd ever taken a civil case to a jury trial there, although later I did find one who had tried a civil jury trial before I had.

That's neither here nor there, but it does give me an opinion about events on the Reservation, and its caused me to be worried about the Arapahoe Tribe pulling out of the Joint Business Council.  I wish they hadn't.

For those who don't follow such things, the Wind River Reservation is the home to two sovereign nations, the Eastern Shoshone and the Northern Araphoe nations.  They share the same reservation and its territorial expanse.

This hasn't always been true.  The Reservation was established, at the request of the Shoshone, in 1868,  The Shoshone under Chief Washakie were allies of the United States and had contributed warriors to campaigns of the Army prior to that, and would do so after that.  The Arapahoes, on the other hand, were allied to the Sioux, but were a very small tribe in numbers.  They fought with the Sioux into the 1870s, but facing a disastrous winter they came to terms with the United States and were allowed on to the Reservation for what was supposed to be a short period of time.  However, the short time became a permanent one, and the Arapahoes have shared the Wind River Reservation since the 1870s.

The two tribes were enemies originally but have lived together since that time, not always on the best of terms.  But in the 20th Century they both came together to create a Joint Business Council to govern the Reservation, which after all is one territorial expanse.  The Joint Business Council was the Tribal Council for purposes of the entire reservation, and was made up of the Shoshone Tribal Council and the Arapahoe Tribal Council.

The Arapahoes just pulled out of the Joint Business Council and have decided to go it more or less alone, although they are taking the position that for certain necessary functions they'll continue to participate.  The Shoshones, which were opposed to their withdrawal, have stated that it isn't possible to withdraw without a vote of a council and therefore the Joint Business Council's role continues on unabated, but without Arapahe representation due to their withdrawal.

There are a lot of governmental functions that this might impact. The Court, for one thing, is a joint court.  There's more or less one system of law, although a few years ago the Arapahoe's drafted an Arapahoe business code.  There are all the functions of local governments that would normally exist, as well as social agencies that need to function.  There's a lot of oil and gas activity on the Reservation, and this needs to be regulated. There's an office that secures employment for Tribal members of both Tribes with those outside employers doing business on the Reservation.  This is a bad development.

What brought this about I can't say, and therefore I can't opine on whatever motivated this action.   But I hope the rift repairs or the decision is reconsidered.  In the last few years we've seen oil and gas exploration expand in the area, the Reservation won its long standing legal battle with the State which allowed casinos to be built on the Reservation, and a decision of the EPA seemed to expand  the territory of the Reservation in to the town of Riverton.  There are a lot of decisions that will have to be made jointly.  This would not seem to be a good time in which for this uncertainty and perhaps duplication to develop.


The Casper Star Tribune's editorial for today decries this development, noting much or some of what we've noted here above. 

The Big Picture & Monday at the Bar: Shreveport Court House

Sunday, October 19, 2014

A view of us, by them, through the eyes of them.

Ah geez, yet again another literary commentator has decided that E. Annie Proulx somehow has a Wyoming association. Wyoming authors who are really from Wyoming just can't get a break.

Proulx is famouly associated with a certain short story made into a movie which set wrote while living in Wyoming and set in Wyoming, but she's not from Wyoming, and at the end of the day was just passing through, having moved on to Seattle. Even when she lived in Wyoming she spent part of the year in Newfoundland. She is not a Wyoming author in the real sense of the word.  She was complaining about getting ignored in a fashion by locals before she left.

Not that outside people who comment on local writings care one whit about that. Or that Proulx came to prominence with The Shipping News, which is set in her native northeast.  But it does cause us to suffer the indignity of so many presentations of people who live in this state are written by people whose connection with the state is temporary or perhaps in the form of immigration to the state.  It isn't as if locals, and very long term residents, don't write.  This must be what it was like for African natives back in the day of European colonization.  I'll bet the writings by English or French colonist don't have big appreciate following in Africa, for example.

It's even worse, of course, with cinematic presentations. They're hardly ever filmed here, and the actors as a rule try to effect an accent that we don't have.

Sunday Morning Scene: St. Mark's Episcopal Church, Casper Wyoming


St. Mark's Episcopal Church, Casper Wyoming, from Churches of the West. An additional photograph appears on that blog.  This impressive structure dates to right around World War One, when a lot of construction was going on in Casper.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Ethnicity, rise, decline, and regeneration. A study of Salt Lake City

I've posted here a couple of times on ethnic neighborhoods in posts inspired in part by the City of Denver. I happened to be in Salt Lake the other day when the same thing occurred to me. That is, ethnicity and how it strongly impacted urban areas and regions in the past.

Salt Lake is a city which, if looked at in terms of demographic groups, is normally associated with the Mormons for obvious reasons. That's so strongly the case that we just don't think of it being a big urban area with strong ethnic neighborhoods, but apparently that''s just flat out wrong.  Around the turn of the last century, it definitely did.

The first time I became aware of that is when a friend of mine pointed out the impressive Catholic cathedral there.

The Cathedral of the Madeline, Salt Lake City Utah.

The Cathedral of the Madeline is a huge beautiful Gothic cathedral. Built in 1900, it is just off downtown in a hilly area.  The cathedral, I learned, was built due to the large Irish Catholic population that was working in the mines and plants just outside of the city.  Building the cathedral, in some ways, showed that they'd really arrived, and were doing well.

But that's not the only, or even the most surprising, example.  Just recently I was in a part of the city down by the old railroad station.  Located in that area of the city is a Greek Orthodox cathedral.

Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Cathedral, which still has its own school, was built in the 1920s, just a bit later.  That Salt Lake City had a significant population of Greeks was surprising.  More surprising, however, is that they were the largest immigrant ethnicity in Salt Lake City at the time, and the part of the city that the cathedral is located in was called "Greek Town".


Greek Town was in a part of the city which was quite industrial at that time, so the location of the cathedral reflects that condition that existed in many urban areas of the time, that being that people lived, went to church, and worked, all in a concentrated area.  They apparently weren't the only immigrant group working in that area.  Only a couple of blocks away from the cathedral is a church built specifically with the immigrant Japanese population in mind.

Japanese Church of Christ, Salt Lake City.  This church was built in the same year as the Greek Orthodox Cathedral.

That Salt Lake City ever had such a significant population of Japanese immigrants that a church would have been built with them in mind is a surprise.  But obviously it did.

Salt Lake by the late 19th Century had a sufficient population of Jewish residents that they had two synagogues built in the last decade of the 19th Century and the first decade of the 20th Century just off of the downtown area.  Presumably the existence of two synagogues within a block of each other reflected some division in faith.  Here too, this was a bit of a surprise to me when I first learned of it.  That the two synagogues were so close to each other would also suggest that the neighborhood they were in was Jewish at the time, although this assumption could be in error.

B'nai Israel Temple, Salt Lake City.  This building is no longer a synagogue, but rather is an architecture firms office.

St. Peter and St. Paul Orthodox Church in Salt Lake City, which was originally a synagogue.

All of this shows a much more diverse ethnic diversity in Salt Lake City a century ago than I would have expected, and it stands in contrast with the common presumption about the city. 

 Former Firestone facility in Salt Lake City.

Of interest as well, while some of the buildings shown in this thread have been kept in their original uses, the neighborhoods have clearly gone through changes.  Greek Town, as noted, was once very industrial and was associated with a Firestone Tire Company plant.

 Firestone plant location, now a restaurant, in Salt Lake City.

 California Tire & Rubber Company building, Salt Lake City.

This area of Salt Lake is no longer industrial, and its undergoing some changes. It clearly fell into a state of dilapidation, and there are still some areas of it that can be pretty rough.  I'd be careful walking around this area at night.  Nonetheless, during the day there's some trendy cool looking restaurants and bars in the area.

That Salt Lake's history apparently reflects a pretty common urban story probably shouldn't be surprising, but in some ways it is.  It isn't a city we really think in an industrial context, with immigrant populations, but it was.

Porridge Aficionados Vie To Make Theirs The Breakfast Of Champions : The Salt : NPR

Porridge Aficionados Vie To Make Theirs The Breakfast Of Champions : The Salt : NPR


I like oatmeal.  I've always liked it, which puts me in an odd category I suppose.  By liking it, I mean really like it, not tolerate it in a blurry eyed oaty slime to go with your coffee sort of way.

My mother used to occasionally call oatmeal porridge, something she learned when she was growing up in Quebec.  It's one of the oldest of breakfast "cereals", and is a true a cereal. That is, it's a cereal in that oats are cereals, i.e., grains.  Cooking it the old way takes some time, but not too much. Well worth making.  

Mid Week At Work: Riot Duty.

Washington D. C., 1968.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Civil Holidays

 Leann posted an item on her blog about Columbus Day, urging Congress to consider changing it to Indigenous Peoples Day.  I'll confess that I think that's not a good idea, and that taking one unobserved civil holiday and converting it into a second, ethnic based one, would probably only serve to create additional unobserved civil holidays.  But it does raise the question in my mind a to what holidays we observe, and which we do not, over time.

 Columbus Day Parade prior to World War One.  I know that some places still have Columbus Day Parades, but not all that many.  It's mostly an unobserved holiday most places.  Apparently this wasn't always the case.

I didn't even take note that it was Columbus Day, although I should have, as I didn't get any mail. That's the kind of holiday it is. Federal offices close, but that's about all that happens, other than some stores trying to take advantage of the marketing opportunities it probably doesn't provide.  Most places, people just ignore Columbus Day.

Presidents Day has gone that way too.  At one time, I think people did stop to observe Washington's Birthday or Lincoln's Birthday, but combining all the Presidential observances into one day didn't do them any favor.  Sure, I might wish to honor Washington, Lincoln, the Roosevelt's, etc., but I'm not too keen on honoring some others.  I'd be hard pressed to raise a glass of milk to Millard Filmore, for example, and I'm not going to toast John F. Kennedy, who was a terrible President in my view (yes, I know that we're not supposed to say that, but he was).  It hardly matters anyhow, as now the day is so diluted that nobody pays any mind.  These days, Presidents Day and Columbus Day, have passed off of everyone's personal observational calendar.

But some days are in, for sure.  Martin Luther King Day seems widely observed with some civil events in most places.  In Wyoming, it's Equality Day as the legislature balked at recognizing a Civil Rights leader when it seemed to them that we'd been honoring civil rights long before that. They were wrong, but at the time I thought that passage might be easier if they made it Washakie-Ross-King Day, in honor of Chief Washakie, Nellie Tayloe Ross, and Martin Luther King.  I still think that would have been nifty.  I note that everyone around here calls the day "Martin Luther King Day", showing that people weren't as worked up, I think, as the legislature apparently was.

Americans also heartily observe Thanksgiving Day, as to Canadians, although the north of the border holiday just occurred.  Christmas and Easter, religious holidays, are also widely observed by everyone.  Veterans Day remains a huge civil holiday in most places, as does Memorial Day, which brings me to my next curious item.

June 6, the anniversary of the Allied landings in Normandy during World War Two, have practically become auxiliary Veterans and Memorial Days.  Both Veterans and Memorial Days actually honor the same people, veterans and more particularly lost veterans, but June 6 has come to be a memorial to World War Two veterans.  November 11 has to hang on as the memorial for World War One veterans, which is how it started off.  December 7 has also taken on that status, and to a certain extent September 11 has now as well, although its officially Patriots Day.  This is interesting in that it shows that honoring veterans remains a huge deal in the United States, to such an extent really that there are two days associated with big events in World War Two that are nearly axillary holidays simply by popular acclimation.

St. Patrick's Day is that way too, although its really degraded over the years.  St. Patrick is the Patron Saint of Ireland, and originally St. Patrick's Day was simply celebrated with a huge celebration wherever there were a lot of Irish expatriates.  Generally local Bishops gave a dispensation for Lenten observances on that day (it's always during Lent) and there were big Irish parties, often with a lot of beer, but there were also quite a few Masses as well.  Now there are still a lot of parties, but generally its an excuse for people to wear green and drink a lot of beer, irrespective of their ancestry.

Cinco de Mayo is approaching the status that St. Patrick's Day had perhaps 30 years ago, being a celebration of all things Hispanic on that day.  It's curious in that it isn't a big day in Mexico itself, even though it commemorates a Mexican battle. The widely made claim that its "Mexican Independence Day" is flatly wrong as that day is September 19.  A big day in strongly Hispanic areas can also be found in Our Lady of Guadalupe's feast day, which  was a big day long before Cinco de Mayo was.

All this is interesting, I think, in that it shows us what people value at any one time.  Columbus Day has gone from being essentially a day in which Italians could point to somebody they were proud of to being largely ignored, or controversial to the extent its observed.  At the same time St. Patrick's Day has become a huge unofficial holiday and Cinco de Mayo is becoming one.  People want to honor veterans so much that we're basically observing four veterans' days.  We have fewer civil holidays than most other people, we don't observe all that we have, but we do observe a few that aren't official.  I wonder what days we would have found being observed a century ago?

Monday, October 13, 2014

Et Ux*: A legal and societal history of marriage

 Wedding party, 1909, New Orleans.

This is one of those "fools rush in" type topics, as even in the last few days I've learned that this is currently such a bitterly debated topic, that people who might not otherwise want to engage a person in a debate will.  This post of mine is one of those trying to look at a historical topic, rather than my wonderings into current topics, even if it is topical to some degree.  I thought about not posing at all, but I was curious about the historical angle.

Recently, anyhow, the topic of marriage has been in the news a lot.

Perhaps it always is, really, as even though we live in an era when an increasing number of people in the western world forgo marriage, at least at the onset of keeping house, than ever before, people remain as fascinated with the topic as ever.  Indeed, I'd argue that they are more fascinated now than at any time in human history, just as people are more fascinated with people having large families than ever before.  But by noting the newsworthiness of the topic, what I am (fairly obviously) referencing the recent court battles on the definition of marriage, and whether the U.S. Constitution must be read to allow same gender marriages, a proposition that the drafters of the Constitution would have found frankly impossible.  Indeed, John Marshall was of the view that topics on marriage were matters solely for the states to decide, and I suspect that if he were alive now he'd be riding the old circuits (which Supreme Court justices actually did, rather than just sitting at the Supreme Court) whacking Circuit Court judges upside the head for ignoring the original set of opinions that allowed the Court to actually survive and function, rather than be turned into a pawn of the national legislature.  Anyhow, that evolution, i.e., that it can even be discussed, is what brings this topic up here now, as this blog tracks historical trends amongst other things, and this one oddly enough directly relates into the era which we're attempting, sort of, to focus on .  So we're looking at marriage in this topic.

 Young couple getting married, early 1940s. This photo is somewhat unusual as at the time men generally wore suits, not tuxedos, at their weddings.  The same is true of the earlier photograph just above.

Marriage as a human institution has existed since time immemorial.  In spite of the recent discussions on what it means now, what it traditionally has been defined to be is an institution designed to govern the relationship between the two genders and their activities recognizing that the two genders are, by their natures, ordered towards the production of children.

Note here right from the onset what I didn't say.  I didn't say that marriage was designed to govern the relationship between two parents with children.  As an institution, it's origin is children-centric, but it isn't children exclusive.  The definition is much broader than that, recognizing the societal problems that order creates.
 Newly married couple, 1919.  The bride was President Wilson's White House cook, the groom a soldier.  Note the fairly plain clothing.
And note what word I didn't use, that word being "love".

This is pretty significant, no matter what a person might now think, as the traditional purpose for marriage is quite distinct, and it also has nothing whatsoever to do with love.  If you are married, I hope you love your spouse, but love isn't actually what marriage is about in terms of a human institution and there are a lot of instances of marriages occurring in various conditions and circumstances, including some discussed here, where romantic love was not an element.  Indeed, some have even gone so far to suggest that that at one time the notion of romantic love was absent from most marriages outside of modern times and outside of European culture although the better evidence is that, to varying degrees, that view tends to be bunk when over applied.**

Anyhow, the reason that this institution exists in all cultures, everywhere, is that the two genders being ordered towards the production of children creates an entire series of societal problems that have to be handled somehow.  For the most obvious, it's in society's interest that the parents of children raise and provide for them.  If that doesn't happen, somebody has to do it, and that creates its own problems.  If just the mother is left doing it, that also creates its own problems.  So some societal vehicle to handle this was necessary and always has been.  Indeed, to the extent that these are now considered to be less of a concern than they once were, it isn't due to our being so much more enlightened that prior generations, but so much wealthier.

A destitute mother with children looks into the house of a mother with her daughter and doll.  In prior eras, a woman with children but no spouse was often reduced to desperate poverty.

By we being wealthier, I should qualify that to mean Europeans and North Americans. The whole world is getting wealthier, but we aren't all there yet.  For an example of how things used to work, a recent issue of the National Geographic discussed workers in Bahrain who work hard construction jobs and send their pay back home to their wives and families who depend on them. They see their families, if they are lucky, about once a year. That's the way the whole world used to sort of work to some degree.  Indeed, in our own history, immigrant men who came over years before their families were common, as was male immigrants who built up a reserve of money and then returned home. The entire time, those families depended upon a husband and father they never saw.

 Procession in Bedouin wedding.

Marriage also was necessary because the ordering itself tends to make for societal problems if not controlled in some way.  Who has some sort of deep psychological claim on another?  Whose property is whose?  Who may call on me in a time of need?  Who is likely to react violently if I pay attention towards another that ignores some element of this?  If somebody gets ill, who is going to take care of them?  All of these are pretty big deals to most cultures, and even in our own, even if we don't often realize it.  We do a really bad job of dealing with some of these problems now, and no matter how advanced we may believe ourselves to be, the old problems reappear continually.  In the last few years, for example, this area has seen several murders which are based on the old law of "you are my woman", resulting in the death of the spouse or former spouse, or in once case for the new contender for her hand.  No, this isn't right, but it still occurs.  And in less ordered societies, it not only occurs, but its essentially license or even mandated by the culture itself.  "You've dishonored us" is still a relatively common basis for murder in the Middle East, for example.

And, as noted, illness in our society is certainly still an issue, but it was a bigger issue in earlier eras.  To sit by somebody's bedside as they died, and support them in their decline, was the human norm, not the exception.  This burden was born first by the spouse, and then by the children, an arrangement all reinforced by the institution of marriage.

 Two members of the Chilean diplomatic mission to the United States marry in Washington D.C., 1938.

Fairly obviously, therefore, the "traditional" definition of marriage has an opposite gender component.  No matter what a person thinks about this topic one way or another, we owe it to honesty to acknowledge that as addressing the topic isn't even possible if we don't do that.  And that's the reality of it through history.  And as might as well be noted, for almost all of human history acting on one of basic instincts is quite likely to result in children, although seemingly in our modern age many people and the entire entertainment industry are unaware of that.  While our entertainment industry is seemingly oblivious to this fact, even the most aboriginal of societies are not, so there's always been an institution of marriage.

Okay, so it involved opposite genders. But what also did it traditionally feature, and how has that changed, and when?  What we'd find is that traditionally, it's deeply personal, it tended not to involve the state at all, it was hard to break the ties that it created, and ignoring the institution was risky even to the point of death.

 Japanese woodcut showing a betrothal ceremony. No, I have no idea what is going on in it.

Let's break that down a bit.

In breaking it down I'm going to admittedly concentrate on European history for the past 2000 years or so, but not always strictly stick to it.  This isn't to say that marriage was created 2000  years ago, it wasn't.  And its not to say that its European, that wouldn't be true either.  But I don't know as much about the institution further back than that in other localities, other than that it existed, so my focus will be smaller.  If somebody is an expert on marriages in other localities, say like in ancient or Medieval Japan, for all means I hope they stop in and fill us in.

What we can say, however, is that almost everywhere marriages originally featured some sort of public recognition of the state of marriage in some forms, but that was originally personal to the participants.  A ceremony in public acknowledgement of it, in some fashion, is the human norm (but in fact not always so, and not always regarded as necessary for it to exist), but a license from the state is not the historical norm.  Usually, or probably almost always, the marriage had a religious component to it most places, although perhaps oddly enough, it did not have to in early Christian Europe, even for Christians.

Marriage license of Faro and Doris Caudill. Notice that the license was issured in Nolan County, Texas. They came directly to Pie Town to homestead after the marriage in February of 1933. Pie Town, New Mexico
Framed State of Texas Marriage License, early 20th Century.  Apparently at one time the framing of marriage licenses was common, although I've never seen anyone do it. The custom must have passed away.  For that matter, the framing of diploma and diploma like certificates seems to be passing away.  I used to see a lot of framed Army discharges, but no longer do.  And even a lot of lawyers (myself included) omit framing and hanging their diplomas.

Marriage licenses as a western institution didn't come about until the Reformation.   And they didn't come about for reasons that are warm and fuzzy, and certainly not for reasons that had to do with "love".  Prior to the Reformation, the norm in the Christian world was for marriage to be acknowledged in a ceremony in Church, but often missed is that it was the participants that basically create the marriage, and generally this is still actually the case.  It arguably (but not necessarily clearly) have been necessary early in Church history to be married in a Church at all, and the Church has always recognized marriages that were done outside of the Church, with certain qualifications, to include marriages between people who aren't Christian at all. That's because the vows between the people are what creates the marriage.  The Church came to require a ceremony for members because Clandestine Marriages were becoming a societal problem.  Clandestine Marriages were ones where people exchanged vows outside of the presence of witnesses, and they had the feature of having one person later often disavowing them which was a big problem. If one was disavowed, and done so rapidly, at least one of the people involved would feel like a fool, and that was the best of the numerous potentially bad outcomes. So the Church came to require witnesses in order to avoid this problem, and acting within its authority decreed future Clandestine Marriages of Church members to to be invalid.  Here, however, it should be noted that this requirement only applied to Church members, and the Church has always continued to regard marriages contracted by those outside the Church in other fashions as valid. So the reasoning behind these rules is not often understood.

Marriage licenses, on the other hand, came about as various governments wanted to keep track of who was getting married.

Originally their desire to track who was getting married. In countries such as England, where the Reformation was in full swing,  the Protestant Crown wanted to track and prevent, Catholics from getting married.  By criminalizing and invalidating, through the authority of the crown, any marriage that the Crown didn't license, the state was making a powerful statement about a variety of things.  This same purpose spread to other countries where there was a strong separation between the government and its citizenry, sometimes on religious grounds, and sometimes on purely secular grounds where the state basically regarded itself as supreme in all things.  This also created some intended and unintended consequences, some of which are still with us, and others which are not.  One odd enduring legacy, to Americans, is that a few European countries, such as Germany and Italy, require two marriage ceremonies, or at least one civil one.  People will frequently get married in a church, and then travel to the clerk's office for the civil ceremony.  Those who were following, for some reason, the recent second marriage of George Clooney would have noted this, as that's the Italian requirement, a refection of an era when the government was hostile the Church.  In the US, we've just stuck with the British norm, which allows a minister authorized to perform the ceremony to sign the license, thereby providing proof that the license was used.  Our license, therefore, are almost like hunting licensees to some degree, you have to sign off on their use.

Of the intended consequences, one thing that this achieved was to allow the state to restrict the bounds of the institution of marriage.  Prior to this, there were societal constraints in concept.  Some societies restricted marriages to single partners, i.e., one man and one woman.  Others recognized plural marriages, i.e., one many and several women, or more uncommonly one woman and several men (very rare).  A few societies that tended towards plural marriages also recognized a state of near marriage that had many of the same attributes but which was slightly less formal, with it often being the case that in such societies the man in the picture was married, with one or more women also attached by the less formal bonds but typically part of the same household.  In some societies those women were held in what amounted to slavery.  In others, however, they freely contracted for their position and were afforded a degree of recognition under the law (the Japanese Imperial household comes to mind in those regards).  Contrary to what one my expect, however, in societies that recognized plural marriages or near plural marriages, they were always regarded as a problem and not a desirable state to be in.  So they tend to be sort of tolerated, rather than admired.

Once the state entered the picture, generally this tended to be regulated in varying degrees, although it was also always very much the case that religion tended to define the validity of marriages as well.  Before anyone might tend to get critical about that, that actually made a great deal of sense, and this was a common attribute of all religions, not just Christianity, and again the human norm was for society and religion to define how these divergent gender relationships came about, rather than the state.  Once the state entered the picture, however, it regulated these aspects of marriages, to include such examples as not recognizing the marriages of certain religions, not recognizing plural marriages (in some instances), controlling the age at which people could marry, controlling the degree of consanguinity to which a person could marry, preventing marriage between different races, requiring tests for disease, preventing marriages between those who were deemed not to have sufficient mental abilities and so on.

As another byproduct of this process, at least in some localities and very common in the US, the concept came about that the State can marry you.  This is really fairly close to the old concept that the couple marries itself (still the theological norm in traditional Christianity) with the State being the witness through an appointed officer, such as a Judge or lawyer, but in many people's minds its different, and the State is viewed as having some power to do this.  It's an interesting concept.  Of course in some countries this is very much the case.

At the same time, and not related to the state's original desire to license marriage, the government keeping track and recognizing marriages in some fashion became important at the exact same time for a completely different reason, that being property.

 Home supervisor helping young farm couple work out home plan. Group meeting, York, Nebraska
Young farm couple filling out paperwork on a home plan.

Marriage has always had a property and asset attribute to it, but it didn't really become significant until the end of the Middle Ages.
Well attired American Indian couple.  A couple like this, just a decade or two before this photo was taken, would have had property, but it would have been physical property capable of being easily identified as to owner, including the owner upon one person's death.

In an aboriginal state of existence, there is very little in the way of property to worry about, and most of the property that exists, is directly applied by the owners all the time, so there's little doubt about who owns it.  In a society like that, inheritance is irrelevant as there's so little property to pass on.  The condition of widows is significant, but traditionally the society took care of that by making her situation the province and duty of near relatives.  This is very similar  to the situation that's presented by pastoral people, who are really near in terms of habits to aboriginal people in some fashion.  Societies that were based on herdsmanship really tend to only have livestock as property, and an inheritance situation is pretty manageable.

Its once you get to the ownership of land that things really change.  But for much of the Medieval period, this didn't matter as all the land was owned by the Feudal class. Once this began to change a little, however, the situation is one that must be managed by the sovereign, as a sovereign cannot have uncertainty as to who owns what in the country.  Moreover, working land requires a lot of hard work, and the division of land into parcels that are too small is destructive to farm productivity (something that Americans still have not learned).  So, leave a widow with no land, and she becomes destitute, leave her with all the land, and the children are destitute.  Society had to control the distribution of the assets of estates, and by necessity it also needed, at that point, some means of tracking who was married.  This became one of the prime features of state licensed marriage, and it remains so today.  Indeed, this is probably at its most important today, in part because by any standard, our society today is richer and has more property than in comparison to any point in its past.  Indeed, the fact that marriage has become less common, while this concern, and that of children from male female unions remains, we have the ironic situation of finding that a lot of the very old concerns fully remain, and its often the concern for children, or the byproducts of death, that make plain the concerns of former eras most plain.

It was those concerns that also grave rise to certain institutions and laws concerning marriages, which have now been largely or partially forgotten. Perhaps the most evident of these was, and is, the "common law" marriage.

The same forces that brought about the state issuance of marriage licenses in the first instance ultimately brought about, to some degree, the creation of common law marriages.  The Reformation in England left so many questions unanswered and such a titanic set of struggles of conscience that it ultimately caused the partial breakdown of religion and social cohesion in that country.  The Industrial Revolution somewhat worsened that situation as people became disconnected from the towns and villages with which they previously had a very strong connection, and took to large disorienting cities.  This caused some (it turns out not to be nearly as large of percentage as at one time believed to dispense with the formalities of marriages including the license. As the problems that marriage is designed to address still existed, the English courts created the concept of "common law" marriage, which held that if a couple lived like husband and wife and held themselves out as husband and wife, they were married.  Thus the courts operated to recreate a condition, in order to solve a problem, with the condition arising due to some people skipping the formalities that would normally have resolves all doubts as to their status, and at the same time making sure the condition was addressed such that any problems were handled.

Common law marriages were one side of a coin.  The flip side made living together outside of marriage, and denying the existence of a common law marriage, illegal.  That's generally less well known, but as a common law marriage does require the outward consent to society believing that a couple was married, denying that state existed meant a couple was not married, and that was a crime.  That may seem odd now to people, but again it existed for a reason. By denying the married state, the couple was subjecting society to the risk that it would end up responsible for a child or perhaps a woman and a child. And the couple was subjecting society to the risk that a dispute over ownership of property would end up burdening the courts.  As with many topics that caused societal problems in most eras prior to our own, that saw expression in the criminal law.

Here I'll take a brief break, to ask one of the series of questions I'll start to from here.  Does anyone know anyone who has contracted or common law marriage, or do you know of anyone of your ancestors who have?  I know of a couple I've run across as a lawyer, although one was a belated failed attempt in which a woman whose live in had substantial assets had never married him, and had been proud of that fact prior to his death.  When he died, she lost everything, and took a belated unsuccessful run at arguing that there was a common law marriage.  In the other instance, there was a common law marriage, but no divorce.  Indeed, the male hadn't divorced twice, the other time from a licensed marriage, but had been married three times. That's not a good situation.

The same concerns that gave rise to common law marriage also saw expression in the civil law as well. Acts such as cheating on a spouse, and contacts regarded as appropriate only within the confines of marriage where generally criminal in nature, but acts that caused a person to leave a spouse subjected the enticing party to civil litigation.  This allowed the offended party to attempt to address not only the emotional injury, but the financial one. And, as is well known but less well understood, breaking an engagement also subjected a person to civil litigation.  "Breach of Promise" may seem hopelessly antiquated now, but it was an action that made sense in context as the offended party may have given up a great deal upon the promise, and therefore that person's chances of regaining a betrothed state may have been diminished.  Bringing such an action was rare, as people were in fact rarely actually injured by the change of heart, but the action emphasized the seriousness of the entire topic.

Divorce was also much harder to obtain, as societies interest in protecting itself did not coincide with people breaking the bond.  At one time in much of European history, divorce was not obtainable at all, and its only fairly recently that its been made legal in some European countries.  It's always existed in the United States, however, as it came in on a very limited basis in reformation England.  It typically required a real offense in order to be awarded.  In some non European cultures obtaining a divorce for at least men was extremely easy, although not quite as easy as some might sometimes believe.  It is still the case in Islamic countries in the Middle East that a man can simply declare the divorce to exist orally, and it does.  Its sometimes believed that in the Jewish faith divorce is easy to obtain, but this is actually incorrect as a recognized divorce, called a "Get" is a special process.  In most uniformly Catholic countries in Europe divorce wasn't recognized until after World War Two.

As an aside here, as it relates to this story, its sometimes commonly asserted that the Episcopal Church (the Church of England) brought divorce to England, but that's incorrect.  The story often is that Henry VIII took England out of the Catholic Church, as he wanted a "divorce".  He didn't want a divorce, however, he wanted an annulment.  When he declared himself to be the head of the Church in England, that's what he was aiming for. The Church of England itself did not recognize divorces as recently as at least the 1940s, and it might not actually formally recognize them now.

By the second quarter of the 20th Century much of this was breaking down for a variety of reasons, and the "heart balm statutes", such as "breach of promise" went out.  Divorce evolved towards "no fault" divorce in some states, as divorces became more common and people simply lied in order to create the conditions allowing the court to award a divorce, thereby reflecting the odd situation of people having so much respect for the state's powers that they would lie to obtain them, ignoring the fact that the lie basically made the decree intellectually invalid.  No fault divorce ultimately became the rule everywhere in the US, I think.  Nearly all of the criminal law that existed on this topic fell, save for the laws addressing polygamy.  Ironically, as the laws regarding acts outside of marriage fell, certain conduct greatly increased, and its arguably now the case that laws protecting the underaged are so much more in play now as the conduct the earlier laws sought to restrain have become so much broader.  That is, conduct was legalized, except where it involved the underaged, which seems to potentially have exposed the underaged to more harm given the increase of activity of all types.

So what does this have to do with our era of a century ago?  Well, quite a bit really.  Some novelist have tended to treat the topic of the relationship between men and women as if such topics were almost subject to the standards of our day, or even a standard well below that of our own, but that's simply not true.  This does not mean that everyone acted according to the standards, but novelist who depict a lot of out of marriage activity are taking real liberties  In contrast, the conditions of marriage in earlier eras are rarely accurately depicted, except perhaps when something really novel, such as "mail order" marriages are looked at. Those did exist, but they were never the norm.  Marriages of necessity and convenience tend not to be looked at all, as they simply aren't very romantic stories, but those were undoubtedly more common than the mail order type.

Mail order brides, just noted above, were a real feature of late 19th Century and early 20th Century American life in Frontier Eras.  It gets some attention now, as it seems so bizarrely odd, but that's because we're used the concept of romantic love being the predominate feature of a marriage.  Romantic love has always existed, and exists in all cultures (contrary to what anthropologist once believed) but it has not always been regarded as an absolute prerequisite to a marriage and its never been regarded at any time as a legal or societal one.  In the Christian world, intent and the ability to form intent is regarded as critical to contracting a marriage, and always has been, but romantic love has not been.  Practicalities of Frontier Life pushed that notion so far into back arena that it removed itself entirely when mail order brides were concerned, with it being regarded as preferable to simply obtain a spouse.  I'm familiar with one family today which had a mail order arrangement, and according to their descendants, they didn't even appear to particularly like each other, at least in later years, although they always stayed married.  Mail order brides, of course, still exist, or perhaps have returned, with the Internet.  I frankly find it bizarre in this modern context, but perhaps that shows that we're somehow replicating the conditions that gave rise to this practice, in some fashion, in our modern world.

In the late 19th and early 20th Century, the way this basically worked is that people responded to newspaper advertisements, sometimes placed by the prospective brides themselves, or sometimes by brokers.  While not universally the case, the women tended to be single European immigrants of distinct cultures, so their changes of marriage might otherwise be poor.  So, young Scandinavian women, or German women, who had bad chances otherwise, might opt for this, as a chance of improving their circumstances or at least of leading a somewhat normal life. Those ordering the brides tended to be Frontier males, in societies that were overwhelmingly male, hoping for a more normal life themselves.  The concept we have of people feeling the East for a wild life on the Frontier is often quite inaccurate really, and many of these men were simply economic immigrants hoping for a better, but normal, life.  Part of that life included a spouse and children, even if that meant acquiring a spouse that they neither loved nor even knew.

If any reader here is familiar personally with a "mail order" bride situation, or has one in their family that they're aware of, I'd love to hear about it.  Please post with the story, if you are willing.

Arranged marriages are less common in North American history, but were extremely common with European nobility.  These marriages were just that, arrangements, and usually set out in economic or political terms.  They tend to be really spotty in terms of success, and while they virtually never resulted in divorce, they did result in a lot of cheating and separations. They also resulted in some real heartbreak, as the human heart being what it is, in both the mail order and the arranged marriage situation, some very strong attachments did ultimately form, with it sometimes being the case that only one person felt them.

I can't think of any real examples of North American arranged marriages. The closest I can think of was one that didn't occur, in which the family of a World War Two Greek American serviceman, who as in his 30s when drafted, sent away for a Greek woman from the village which they had originally come from, without telling him.  When he returned from the war, he refused to enter into the marriage, but it worked out.  He found and married somebody else, and the woman stayed and found a husband, so everyone basically ended up with what they'd hoped for.  One couple I very dimly knew who did have an arranged marriage were Indians from India, whose parents had arranged the marriage when they were very young. They later immigrated to the United States and they seemed perfectly content with the results of the arrangement.

Again, if you know of an arranged marriage, let me know the details, we'd love to hear about it.

It'd be nice to know more about the ages that people generally married in the era we're looking at, and some of that data is surprising.  People tend to think that everyone from earlier years got married very young, and its certainly the case in our own era that in urban areas the average age of marriages has gone up considerably.  But our perception isn't wholly accurate.  Much of this particular aspect of marriage depends upon the stability of the culture in question, and economic conditions, and this can vary accordingly within ethnic groups within a single culture.

When looked at closely, cultures in the past that had younger ages for marriages often were fairly rural and highly stable.  That may seem odd, but it makes sense.  Generally, in those cultures we tend to find that not much changes overall.  People do not move a great deal, if at all. They did not come into contact with a lot of new people as a rule. And their economic situation was what it was, even if that was not a truly wealthy condition to live in.  Given that, marriage ages tended towards the young as by a person's mid teens they'd probably entered a lifetime occupation, if male, and both genders probably knew about everyone they were likely to.  The one added thing we see there is that often the young age for marriage is more a female thing, than a male thing, although not universally so.  That probably  had to do with the high female death rate, as many men in their 20s and 30s were widowers. So we seem men in their 20s, or even 30s (or occasionally older) marrying women all the way down to their mid teens. But we also see teenager marrying as well.  It seems almost shocking to us, but considering that they were of age, and had entered the adult world, etc., from a social and personal prospective, it makes sense.  It doesn't make much sense to us now as people haven't entered the adult world by that age and usually aren't well established in anything either.

At the same time, however, we see ethnic groups, or even whole cultures, in poverty where this simply is not the case at all.  The Irish, both in Ireland and in their diaspora, are a good example.  The Irish usually didn't marry until their late 20s or their 30s, for men or women.  The reason is that economics simply prohibited.  It was a lot easier to live in the family home until the age where you were really somewhat economically stable, or had inherited something, or conditions would simply no longer allow it, then to enter into a risky economic relationship.  This runs very much counter to our view of the Irish really, as having large families, etc. as in reality, as a rule, people of Irish culture or ethnic heritage simply did not marry until they were well established or older.  My own parents, who had strong Irish heritage, were in their 30s when they married.

Irish farm couple in the old country.  In looking at the photo, by modern standards we'd probably guess their ages as being at least in their 60s, but with the hard conditions they lived in at the time, I'd guess that this couple is in their 50s.

This same concern depressed marriage ages for entire generations, in some instances.  In the entire Western world, for example, marriage rates went way down during the 1930s, due to the Great Depression. The country really only pulled out of the Depression due to World War Two, and while the war brought on the phenomenon of quicky marriages in droves by soldiers and their brides who were young, it also meant that soldiers who were older, and a lot of U.S servicemen were in their late 20s and early 30s, with ages up into the 40s not uncommon, tended to wait even longer.  Quite a few men of marriageable age who served in World War Two had years removed from that part of their lives, and so it wouldn't be uncommon at all to find men who were in their early 30s when conscripted at the beginning of World War Two existing the service in 1945 or 1946 as unmarried men now in their late 30s.  Events like that is what really caused the legendary Baby Boom, as an entire generation that had lived suspended lives in the 1930s and 1940s felt the need to catch up.  Of course, it also brought on a host of social problems as well, as the normal development of much of their lives had not occurred, and its no surprise, therefore, that movement towards "no fault" divorces really took off following the Second World War.

Here's a place where I'll take a break in this thread and ask if anyone here has personal knowledge of a quick World War One or World War Two marriage.  I can think of one that I know of, which I'll note did not work out, which seems to have been a fairly common experience.

Likewise, another thing I'll ask here, even though I haven't dealt with it, is the topic of war brides.  War brides are, of course, marriages which occurred when  (mostly male) soldiers met their spouses overseas while serving in wartime.  I do know somebody whose parents were married under those circumstances, but very unusually, he was a wounded German POW, and she was an American nurse.  That was, suffice it to say, extremely unusual.

Getting back to the topics just raised and thinking of examples I'm personally familiar with, I don't know of anyone in my own family who ever married really young.  One older couple I know in which the surviving widow just died, however, I do know to have been in her mid teens as a bride, with her husband only being a couple of years older when they married. In that case, they were both from a highly stable Hispanic community when they married, and he was well employed at the time.  A person I once knew when I was a National Guardsmen had actually married his wife when she was only 13, an age I found shocking now and still do.  They were both teenagers at the time, and living in rural Louisiana.  At the time I knew them, they'd been married for a very long time.  One other couple I knew locally was the huge real exception as they'd married when they were 16, simply because they wanted to, and they were both high school students at the time. That amazingly worked out and the husband in that union went through a series of blue collar jobs to business ownerships and was a millionaire at the time of his death.  And one of the students that was in the same year I was in high school was married to a welder while we were in school, which seemed exceedingly odd then, and still does.  

 Young couple, 1920s. By their dress, this couple was probably at least Middle Class, if not well to do.  Ages, again, are hard to place in photos but even the caption of this photo regards this couple as "young".  My guess would be upper 20s, and that would have been a fairly common marriage age for a couple with means, in this era.

Due to societal changes, I largely think these really young marriages have basically passed away our in our culture, or perhaps I just don't know enough about who is getting married to really know.  Anyhow, I just don't know of this happening much anymore in our society and the conditions that caused it to be a viable option probably no longer exists.  We've extended adolescence out to the mid 20s, or even 30s, while in earlier eras we were probably terminating that status in the mid teens, so things in this category have really changed.  

Here again, I'll ask the question.  If you have personal familiarity with this category, let us know.

While addressing young marriages, I might as well address "shotgun marriages", which I think largely a myth really.

The term shotgun marriage is a term that at one time everyone knew, but which I'd guess is largely now a forgotten term amongst the young.  And I don't believe that they were really ever very common. What the term referred to is a forced marriage, as the female participant was expecting without the benefit of marriage.  The "shotgun" comes into it, in the manner that the Jody call I learned at Ft. Sill while in Basic Training suggests:

Around the block, she pushed a baby carriage
She pushed in the Summer and the Merry Month of May
And when they asked her why the heck she pushed it
She pushed it for her soldier who was far, far away.
Far away.
Far away
She pushed it for her soldier who was far, far away.

Behind the door, her father kept a shotgun
He kept in the Summer and the Merry Month of May.
And when they asked him why the heck she kept it.
He kept for her soldier who was far far away.
Far away.
Far away
He kept it for her soldier who was far, far away.
"She Wore A Yellow Ribbon".

Yes, by the way, that Jody Call is the same song that the John Ford movie She Wore A Yellow Ribbon features so prominently, although Ford's troopers don't sing the lyrics that far into the song.

Anyhow, a forced marriage actually is invalid by definition, so if a person truly was forced into marriage in this fashion, they probably didn't give valid consent to it, and obtaining an annulment would be relatively easy.  Having said that, what actually more likely occurred is that couples in this circumstance consented to marriage as  economically, the women was now in a real fix, and legally, they were both in a real bind. And it was embarrassing.

Beyond that, I'll note, something that you'll tend to find fairly frequently in this situation is an outside male stepping up to the plate.  It seems to have been surprisingly common, and a person would have to really know the whole story to know the reason. At any rate, it's not hard to find examples of a young woman being in this situation and some other man entering the picture and marrying her.  It would be easy to suggest that the woman's situation was dictated by financial concerns, but quite often it seems to be the case that the alternative marriage was very freely consented to.  It almost seems to be the case that what the male motivation was amounted to the classic "carrying a torch" situation, with there being one last chance, and the female motivation was "what the heck was I thinking".  These marriages tended to be extremely stable, and very often the male fully assumed the full responsibility for everything, and the actual departing father essentially conspired in silence.  No doubt there are many people running around today with family trees they have researched which are actually wholly in error due to this.  A close friend of mine is actually aware of this having happened in his family, with the actual lineage departing when a female ancestor found her self in embarrassing circumstances with a rich male employer, but with some outside male stepping up to the plate.
Let's also look at this in terms of culture and class.

Generally, people tend to marry within their own cultures and class, if they can, as a rule.  This has always been true, but it tended to be more true in the past than it is now, which isn't to say that it doesn't occur now.

There are a lot of reasons for this, and its one of the areas where people like to attach some sort of conspiracy theory to the topic, but frankly the basic reason is quite natural and this still tends to be the rule today, although its less the case than it once was.  Basically, in spite of the old assertion that "opposites attract", people tend to marry people who are like themselves in some ways. Opposites attract, but the attraction doesn't tend to really lead to lasting relationships really.

So, people generally and naturally tend to marry within their social and economic groups.  Traditionally, and as is still the case today, they also tend to marry within their general cultures.

For most of human history, and still today but less so than it once was, religion has been a huge aspect of this, and its tended to manifest itself in this cultural category in very interesting ways.  Generally, of course, in most old world cultures almost everyone in any one region is of the same culture, religion and economic class to start with, so a person doesn't really have to consider that much in that context.  So, for example, if we're looking at a couple living in Paderborn Germany in the 1830s, they're going to be marrying a German Catholic spouse, almost certainly.  Or, if a person is living in rural Norway in 1913, they're going to be almost certainty marrying a Norwegian Lutheran.  Not absolutely certainly, however, as even in those circumstances you can find exceptions to the rule.

Still, in the old world, even where cultures were somewhat mixed, the tendency remained for people to marry within their cultures. German Jews, for example, tended to marry other German Jews, but certainly not exclusively so.  German Lutherans tended to marry German Lutherans, and not German Catholics, but there was more cross over than a person might suppose.  So the general trend was there, but it wasn't absolute.

Where things really being to get interesting, in this context, is in the New World, and more specifically North America, where cultures ended up coming in contact with each other that never had, and so the importance of varying concerns becomes more evident. We still find that people tended to marry within their own ethnic backgrounds and religion, but that there was much more mixing than we'd generally suppose, and early on. What we find is that religion often took a much more important role in things than ethnic heritage did, so this says a lot about how people viewed their ethnicity as opposed to their religion.  In many areas of North American Catholic German populations mixed almost immediately with Catholic Irish populations, and intermarriage occurred right from the onset.  Likewise, German Catholic immigrants to northern Mexico intermarried nearly immediately, showing that they valued their religion much more than their ethnicity, in both the German and the Mexican cultures.  In a really old North American example, the French Quebecois tended to very much intermarry with any other Catholic population, meaning today that in reality the Quebecois are all descendant of Irish and Indian ancestors, as well as French ancestors.  In the American East, immigrant Jewish populations from Eastern Europe mixed early on as well, and while the immigrants might have represented centuries of presence in one region of Europe, once they arrived they intermarried quickly.

As time has gone on in North America "mixed marriages", in terms of religious diversity, have become more and more common, but religion still is a major concern to many couples.  Marriage stability has been shown to be much higher when couples do share the same religious faith so there's more than a little to it.  Mixed culture seems to be of less importance, and certainly in the American west today we see a lot of intermarriage between recently arrived Hispanics and the older general American ethnicity.  This is so much the case already that having a Spanish last name already means next to nothing in terms of ethnicity.  Of course, for cultures that do not have a European origin or influence of some sort, ethnicity and marriage can still be a huge factor, although again it seems that religion matters more than ethnicity. So where Christianity has influenced Asian populations, for example, immigrant Asian Christian populations intermarry fairly seamlessly with other groups in the United States.  Intermarriages between very divergent faiths, however, undoubtedly remain fairly rare.

That all has to deal with religion, but cultural heritage once seemed to play a fairly common role as well.  That may have had more to do with cultural geography, however ,than anything else, as it doesn't seem to continue to play a role within the larger culture very long.  I've never met anyone, for example, who thought that because they were of Scottish ancestry they had to marry another person of Scottish ancestry, and I don't even think that things like that happened in earlier eras.  Generally, what was probably the case where you have more than one generation of that type in the US, its because they were probably all of Scottish Presbyterian heritage, and that's who they tended to meet at church.  Indeed, meeting at church was at least a common way to meet up until fairly recently, and I've known more than one couple only a little older than myself who met at church.  My own parents met at church.

Economic status, and education, also have traditionally played a bit role and still do, although I suspect that there's a larger cultural aspect to this, at least based upon my own observations.  I don't think that its' common for a person to universally think that they must marry a person of equivalent economic status, although I do think at one time it was quite common for a person to be concerned about social standing, which is very directly related to that.  So, for example, when we look at the old money East Coast families, I don't think that they went out to marry people who were equally wealthy, but rather of equal social standing.  Indeed, many people have just recently watched the Ken Burns documentary The Roosevelt's, of which I saw some but not all of.  If we take the second marriage of Theodore Roosevelt as an example, we'd find that his bride Edith Carew was of equal social standing, but not wealth, as her family's wealth was in an unarrestable decline at the time of their marriage.

Of course, social standing equates to social circles, which is a big factor.  People tend to meet each other in social circles based upon their economic standing. So, a family like the Roosevelt's met other people like themselves in areas that they frequented or lived in. That's not conspiratorial in nature, it is nature.  Irish working class families in the US met other Catholics of working class background in what some have called the Catholic Ghettos that existed up until the mid 20th  Century.  In the West, where people lived much more fluid lives, they tended to meet a wider circle of people in different areas, but still this came into play.  My parents met at church, as noted.  A lot ranch couples I know met at ranch working functions, often as children.  My wife and I met at The Sheepherders Fair.

On social standing and the well to do, an interesting phenomenon is present in second marriages when the widower is at least in this 50s.  The same concerns that existed in the first marriage seem to have been routinely dispensed with in the second.  Here you can find quite a few examples of well to do widowers, who had married distinguished women of their same social standing in their first marriage, marrying somebody of much lower social standing, often an employee, in their second marriage. Another friend of mine knows that one of his ancestors who was well to do married a younger maid that he employed some time after his first wife's death, even though he was very well educated and multilingual, and she had next to no education.   This is an interesting phenomenon that probably has a variety of explanations.  For one, and probably the most important, such widowers probably valued the married state more than anything else at that point in their lives, and other concerns had dropped off.  Often, however these sort of marriages end up being a real bone of contention for the children of the first marriage, and sometimes the children of the second, if there are any.

Sort of the antithesis to second marriages in this context, the failure of a woman to marry at all was a undoubted stigma at one time.  I'm not so sure that it still isn't to some degree.  This gave rise to the term "old maid", which referred to a "maid", i.e., unmarried woman, who had grown old.  A person could reach old maid status fairly rapidly, or perhaps become a "spinster" if her family condition was more gentile.   It generally wasn't a condition to be envied, although some women chose it voluntarily.  At least one "maiden aunt" of my mother's definitely did.  At any rate, these terms have long passed, and while there may still be some stigma attached, it's not anything like what it once was.

The same is somewhat, but less, true of men.  It was unusual for men in most occupations not to marry, although there were some occupations that featured a lot of bachelors. The armed forces, for example, had a great number of bachelors in it, in no small part because it was simply impossible for an enlisted man to to afford to be married unless they obtained high NCO rank, by which time they were typically older and likely highly habituated.  Indeed, at certain times, and with some of those being quite recent, married men were not allowed to enlist in the Army, although generally they could be conscripted during periods of conscription, in the U.S. Army.  All of this explains why certain vices were heavily associated with concentrations of soldiers in certain eras.

 Early 20th Century cowboy. At this point in time, a demographic change was just occurring in which this occupation was going from almost universally young unmarried men, to older men who might be married.  Since then, it's flipped one more time, and the process has repeated itself.

A surprising category of the largely unmarried, to some degree, has been agricultural workers in the US, from time to time.  19th Century cowboys may form the best example as they were almost never married.  Indeed, cowboys not only were "boys", but as a rule they didn't occupy that profession for long, with a desire to marry often being a reason they left it.  Ranchers, which are truly a different class from cowboys, tended to be married, although you will find surprising examples to the contrary.  Going into the 20th Century things changed in regards to cowboys, and up until prior to World War Two, when the open range days had faded, married cowboys became fairly common. The war changed this, however, as exposure to other more lucrative jobs generally caused the married men to drop out and its only until quite recently when this has again begun to change, and married cowboys have become more common again.  As for ranchers, as noted, they have always tended to be married men, but there are a fair number of examples of them marrying at an older age than we'd expect, or not at all. Circumstances and conditions just didn't allow for it. This must also be true of other types of agriculturalist, such as farmers, and Garrison Keillor made an entire genera of literary figure out of the Norwegian Bachelor Farmer, which I'm told is a fairly accurate characterization.

Of course, certain occupations, although they are few in number, are not opened to the married. One example, although its a temporary status, was just given. Another permanent such one, however, would be that of Priest in the Latin right of the Catholic church.  This hasn't always been the case, and even today that is a rule of the church and not a dogma of it, but it has been a rule for a very long time, although there are certain exceptions to it.  Contrary to what some might expect, the same rule doesn't apply to Catholic priests from the Easter Rites of the church, although I think that the rule there may be that they have to have been married prior to entering into the seminary and can't marry after that. The same rule, I think, applies in the Orthodox churches.  I also think, but I'm not sure, that in both the Eastern Rite Catholic churches and the Orthodox churches married men are not qualified to be bishops.

Christian monks, if truly monks, are also subject to the rule against marriage no matter what branch of Christianity they may be in.  This is sometimes confused, however, by the existence in the Orthodox world of "monks" that aren't really monks, such as the legendary example of Rasputin. Rasputin was regarded as an ascetic, but he wasn't a monk.  He was married, fwiw.***

As with monks, the Christian world gives us also the example of Nuns, who likewise never marry.  Nuns exist not only in the Catholic and Orthodox denominations, but also in certain Protestant denominations, where their status in regards to marriage is the same no matter what.

At this point in this thread, I think I've run down about all the various "frayed threads" I intended to, so I'll rather awkwardly close it here.  Having asked a few questions, I hope we see a few replies, as it would be interesting to see how many people can relate to one or more of the various odds and ends I've placed in here.


*Latin for "And Spouse".  The term frequently appears on older deeds.

**At one time it was the dominant anthropological view that romantic love was an invention of Europeans from the Renaissance and Enlightenment Era, and that it actually wasn't experienced by people who hadn't learned it culturally.  This view is pretty good proof that a lot of popular academic ideas, at any one time, are truly stupid.  Ultimately researchers determined that it is in fact an universal human emotion.  Apparently the dimwitted people who came up withe opposite conclusion were only able to recognize it in their own cultures, which itself is pretty darned dense. 

***His daughter spent a fair amount of time in later years trying to rehabilitate his reputation in the west, where she fled as a refugee.  Needless to say, she wasn't really successful at that.