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Veribest

Advertising names that speak to you: 2 - Veribest


U 17.593: Veribest (Boot Blacking).


Joyce jotted down “veribest” in his notebooks from his observation and reading in mid to late 1921, and added it almost immediately to his typescript of Ulysses.1 As with “Bacilikil” and "Uwantit", which were added at the same time, Gifford notes the term as “unknown”.

     But although no evidence has been found to associate the term with boot blacking, it was clearly a popular brand name in the American advertising world at the time Ulysses was being completed. Joyce’s note does not associate the term with a particular product, and so he may have felt free to apply it as he wished.

     References to “Veribest” (= Very Best) in the name of products go back at least to 1902, when H. G. Huber promoted his “Veribest” fertilizer (Circular No. 29 of the Mississippi Agricultural Experiment Station, p. 64).

     “Veribest” was best known in the food industry. Armour and Company was a successful meat-packing and food-processing business established initially in Chicago in the late nineteenth century. Veribest-trademarked Armour products were promoted heavily in the early twentieth century through their advertising and their spin-off cookery books such as Jean Prescott Adams’s The Business of Being a Housewife (1917). Adams was Armour’s Domestic Science Director at the time:

 Armour’s "Veribest" Potted Tongue and Ham, sold regularly at 6c. Special at 2 for…5c.

Washington Post (1904) 29 May p. 10

     But the name was picked up in wider contexts. The Appeal (Saint Paul, Minnesota) carries an advertisement for the cigar “Sight Draft” on 23 March 1918:

Make No Mistake, Just Smoke

SIGHT DRAFT

The Veribest Six Cent Cigar

     And as early as 1920 the product description “Veribest” could be found in French newspapers (Joyce had moved to Paris in July 1920). The following advertisement for “Veribest Bonbons” appeared in Le Figaro on 3 November of that year (p. 4):

     Although the designation “Veribest” was most closely associated with Armour’s processed meats (lunch tongue, corned beef, dried beef) the company also produced “Veribest” peanut butter, jams, etc.

     The name was attractive to advertisers and consumers alike. Armour promoted the product in the UK:

Daily Mirror (1907) 14 November p. 2

     Even Harrods was advertising a Veribest soup range in 1921. It is likely that Joyce came across an advertisement for Armour’s products in his newspaper-reading, and lodged it in the ad agent Bloom’s memory for use in Ulysses.

John Simpson


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1 Philip F. Herring Joyce's notes and early drafts for Ulysses (1977), p. 106: Ulysses Notebooks V.A.2, l. 50.