Bachelor life in Pittsburgh can be tough. Unmarried men were once considered poor citizens, wedded to wickedness and vice. Years ago, some folks suggested a “bachelor tax.” Such a levy would coerce a few of those nightclubbing men to get on their knees and pop the question.
It made sense to a man named Mr. Hennessey. “Why shouldn’t there be a bachelor tax?” he asked in a 1907 Pittsburgh Press article. “There’s one on dogs.”
Unmarried Mr. Dooley took offense.
“I suppose ye expect next year to see me trottin’ around with a leather collar an’ a brass tag on me neck,” he said.
Mr. Dooley was part of a fraternity of “comely bachelors” and considered himself quite a catch.
“Bein’ very beautiful, we can afford to be haughty and peevish,” he said. “It makes us more interestin’.”
Using a tax to bully men into marriage was a terrible idea, said a Pittsburgh Press writer in 1921. Any man who could be driven to matrimony by such a tax “would lack the nerve and stamina necessary to make him a successful husband …”
The wife of such a man, the writer continued, would certainly be annoyed that her husband’s motivation for matrimony was not love and romance but an overwhelming desire to avoid paying a $5 tax bill. Forget about diamonds and pearls.
In 1902, a bachelor named Frank Harper expressed his frustration with women who continually asked him why he wasn’t married. He suggested this reply:
“Madam, that query can be best answered by your own sex.”
But Mr. Harper would never say such a thing. Bachelors, he said, are gentlemen.
Identifying unmarried men in a crowd was an issue addressed in a 1912 Pittsburgh Press story. One suggestion: Give bachelors special pins identifying them as unwed. Maybe it should be a law.
That wasn’t good enough for Mary Coleman. “The distinguishing mark I’d suggest is a black necktie,” she said. “They [bachelors] should be in perpetual mourning because they are so foolish as to stay unmarried and deprive themselves of the comforts of a wife and home.”
Of course, as the decades passed, we as citizens became more enlightened and tolerant of men who chose to remain free of a wife and family. Or not. Pittsburgh Press reporter Barbara Cloud was told by one bachelor in 1961 that when he tells his old high school girlfriends that he’s not married, “they give me the evil eye.”
Bachelorhood does have advantages, though. “No anniversaries to remember, no special time to be home for dinner, weekends free to go fishing, a ski trip, just being lazy,” Ms. Cloud wrote. “It’s great.”
The Press decided in 1938 to devote a special spread to advising bachelors in a story headlined, “How to Live Without a Woman.” Men struggling with unfulfilled paternal instincts should get a few cats, the piece suggested. “The most obstinate cases can be cured by visiting a few homes where there are children.”
We think he was kidding.
Thirty years later, the Press returned to the topic of bachelorhood. Most unmarried men want to get hitched, the 1968 article said. They’re just having a hard time because, darn it, the pursuit of success takes so much time.
“Something that girls should know,” mansplained one bachelor who was irritated that women placed so much value on scheduling. “You get pretty tired of planning your life two weeks ahead. You need a girl that you can call to go out for a beer in an hour. How do I know that I’ll want to talk over a beer to some girl two weeks from now?”
This guy spent his Saturday nights with the Marching Chowder Club, a group that took turns eating in each other’s homes. Why couldn’t he get a date? We have no idea.
— Steve Mellon