Today it’s easy to find an app to log any metric you’re interested in: calories, menstrual cycles, steps taken in a day. But back in the mid-20th century, a young woman had only pen and paper with which to keep track of daily events, be they momentous or mundane. That’s where the “Him” Book pictured above came into play.
The “Him” Book was a special notebook for teenage girls to — in the rhyming words printed on the wooden cover — “keep complete/a record of all the boys I meet.” Published by the Cherokee Scout newspaper in Murphy, NC, each page of the journal contained a space for a photograph to be pasted in, alongside blank lines for such vital information as his name, nickname, address, and where the girl had met him. Extra lines followed the phrase “He seems to be,” because the answer to this was in all likelihood a bit more complicated than a simple “nice” or “gross”—especially since the point of keeping this record was to find a future husband lurking among its pages. Clearly, posterity demanded more than a one-word answer.
The copy pictured here has seven pages (there may have been more originally), with room altogether for the stats of 21 young men. But before your mind starts drifting to Lindsay Lohan’s infamous conquests list, keep in mind that when the “Him” Book was published in the 1940s, dating was a mostly platonic event and sex was for married people (this, at least, was the ideal). What’s more, according to social customs of the time, a girl’s popularity was measured by the amount of dates she had with different boys, and by the amount of money each spent on her. Therefore, filling in the line “He seems to be” with a word like “cheap” might have been the kiss of death for a potential mate where future dates were concerned.
But even when the “Him” Book was hot off the presses, dating habits were changing rapidly. As the 1940s became the 1950s, the new measure of popularity was “going steady” with just one person. And for that, you didn’t need a record book—at least not one like this.
Written by: Lynn Peril
Photographed by: Sarah Anne Ward
Prop Stylist: Maya Rossi