My grandmother, born in 1890, grew up in Pennsylvania in a strong religious family with four sisters. Church functions were the main entertainment in that city.
Finding a Beau, Becoming a Bride
She was not a beauty, and kinda plump, and apparently not attracting any beaus in her hometown; so she took fate into her own hands and answered an ad for a wife way across the country in Montana! She soon heard back from Jacob Zulli, an immigrant from Switzerland who would send her the fare to come out to meet him in Dillion, Montana. He was as old as her father was, but she did not care. She was off, despite her parents’ objections. Three days after arriving in Dillion they were wed, and she wore the nicest thing she had, a black beaded dress. After the ceremony, they were able to have their portrait taken. That marriage produced my mother and her sister. Hard times would come, but my grandmother achieved her goal of family and children. Jacob Zulli died in 1933 in Montana. My grandmother moved back to Pennsylvania.
When she died in 1962, my mother and I went to her funeral in Pennsylvania and while going through her things came across her wedding portrait and an old small box of something. When my mother opened it, she discovered it was the beads off her mother’s black wedding dress. How special was that! I still have that box and portrait and the remarkable story of a mail-order bride who knew what she wanted and was brave enough to go get it.
Generations of Bravery
I think of my grandmother when my own daughter does something brave that I do not approve of — like travel across the world to meet a friend she has met on the internet — or drive by herself up the coast line for the mere beauty and fun of it. That brave adventurous spirit has skipped a generation for I truly am not that brave. The black beads and wedding dress portrait will someday go to her, and when she looks at them she will remember where her adventurous spirit came from.
~ Peggy Pena
San Bernardino, California
If you like what you’ve read here, we invite you to check out “Yesterday’s Bride,” written by our regular contributor Dr. Anthony J. Cavo.
The book examines the traditions of brides and bridal gowns from 1858 through the 1930’s.