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Darling, I love you...Let's Elope

Today we think of Las Vegas as the elopement capital of the US, but in the early 20th century, it was our own fair state. From the 1910s through the late 1930s, Maryland, unlike its neighboring states, had no mandated waiting period between the granting of the marriage license and the actual ceremony. For those who wanted to marry in secret, or simply get hitched in a hurry, Maryland was the place to go. County seats, especially Elkton (the most convenient to those coming from the northeast) saw high numbers of eloping couples. Eventually, disapproval from Maryland residents – who did not care for the fame brought by “imprudent and reckless” quickie ceremonies – led to a change of legislation, and in 1938 a 48 hour waiting period was set in place.

Maryland’s Jewish community did not need to leave the state for their elopement needs; they were already here.  Nonetheless, a number of Baltimore couples headed out of town, to Elkton or Rockville; others chose Washington, DC, or even more far-flung cities for their quiet ceremony, waiting period or no.


Wedding dress of Bertha Rose, who married Benjamin Manko on August 7, 1902.


Though the two were known to be engaged, their friends were surprised to discover the pair had been quietly married by a Justice of the Peace in Washington, DC. Bertha, who worked for Schoen Russell Millinery Shop on Charles Street, made this linen and lace dress herself.  Gift of Theodore Newhoff. JMM 1998.34.1

Until Maryland law changed in 1964, civil marriages were not allowed here; even a quick elopement had to be performed by a clergyman. Elkton ministers advertised their services until a 1943 Cecil County statue outlawed their signs.


Postcard: "On the main road to Elkton, Md., the marriage capitol of the east."  Published by Del Mar News Agency, Wilmington, Del. Courtesy Boston Public Library - Tichnor Brothers Postcard Collection.  CP 2017.9.1


The Sun, Aug 8, 1902:


Relatives and friends of Miss Bertha Rose, [Baltimore], were surprised at the news of her marriage yesterday in Washington to Mr. Benjamin Manko, which was contained in The Sun's special dispatches from Washington.  That Miss Rose and Mr. Manko were engaged was known to the families of both, but the marriage at this time was unexpected, although there was no objection on either side.  Mr. and Mrs. Manko left on a wedding trip, having wired their families announcing the marriage.


Marriage license application for Mindel M. Baskin and Daniel Spector of Baltimore, 1938. They eloped to Elkton on April 2, 1938, kept it a secret for over a year, and then married again in an official ceremony after her high school graduation in June 1939.


Because of state laws, their first marriage was performed by a Methodist minister; though the 1938 license states that Mindel is of age and needs no parental permission, in truth she was not yet 18. Family stories tell us that their first marriage ceremony was only revealed by accident, many years later.


This photo is thought to show them at this first secret ceremony; it can’t be said that they look terribly remorseful.  On loan from Marvin Spector. JMM L2017.1.1, .2

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