Classified advertisements are a catalogue of our quotidian desires. As such, they offer a unique glimpse into our culture—and an affirmation of the complexity of human interaction.
In her 2005 book Strange Red Cow and Other Curious Classified Ads from the Past, Sara Bader examined classified ads from the eighteenth century through the present, and found that although circumstances change (you might forget your spectacles on the stagecoach rather than the local bus, for example), the human need to buy, sell, barter, and connect through advertisements is of long standing. The title of her book comes from one of the more unusual ads she found in the Pennsylvania Gazette:
Came to my plantation, in Springfield township, Philadelphia county, near Flour-town, the 26th of March 1776, A STRANGE RED COW. The owner may have her again, on proving his property, and paying charges.
Classified ads even have spawned their own scholarly studies, with fittingly turgid titles such as The Discourse...