So around 1900, the best date a girl working at Lord & Taylor’s in New York could have imagined might have been to go to Coney Island.

As movie theaters got more and more popular, going to the movies became a classic date.

the atlantic forget online dating-73

As part of her research, Weigel read dating-advice books from the 1800s and hundreds of articles on dating from teen and women’s magazines over the years, and she found two common themes: First, there is usually an older part of the population that perceives dating to be “dying,” or, at least, as not being done “appropriately.” Second, Weigel found that the way people date has almost always been tied to the market forces of their era.

Bourree Lam: Your book begins with the fact that dating essentially started when women started working.

So in a sense, are you saying that dating has its roots in women entering the workforce? Starting in the 1890s and 1900s, a huge number of young Americans began moving to cities and a huge number of women in particular began working outside of homes—their own homes, or homes where they might have worked as governesses or maids.

Previously, courtship rituals had taken place in private places, almost always chaperoned by relatives or other authority figures.

There was the explosion of fast-food joints, drive-in movie theaters, restaurants.

So there were many new things for young daters to do.

But I believe that it follows logically from changes in labor patterns.

Lam: In the book, you mention that a booming economy led to the democratization of dating. Weigel: One really interesting thing about the history of dating is that it starts out as a solidly working-class phenomenon.

Structural racism meant that the new wealth was far from equally distributed.