Philately is for bumboosers

U 15.2206-7: You can call me up by sunphone any old time. Bumboosers, save your stamps.

Don Gifford (Ulysses Annotated ) suggests that you might save your stamps ‘for collection by the church mission to be sold to a stamp dealer to raise money’. That may indeed be the case, but the formula illustrated by ‘bumboosers, save your stamps’ was a mainstay of old theatrical (and subsequently other) advertisements towards the end of the nineteenth century and into the twentieth, both in Britain and America. In 1877 the Era – famous for its job ads for actors and singers – offered this:

Mr. Frank Burgess, comedian and Stage Manager, open to Engagement as above for Opera, Burlesque, &c., or as Assistant Agent to respectable Entertainment. 48, West-street, Sheffield. Mushroom Managers may save their stamps.

Era (1877) 25 February

The implication is not that the stamps should go to the church mission, but that unscrupulous applicants and swindlers should not even think of applying for the post. Mushroom managers were managers who seemed to appear overnight looking for instant success for their clients.

The inclusion of drunks and boozers in this category of undesirable applicants is soon found. Again, from the Era:

Wanted, Useful People, for permanent Ghost Illusion (Second Year). Long Engagement to suitable people. Salary low, but sure. Silence a negative pro tem. Those who cannot keep sober save stamps.

Era (1882) 25 November

The formula was common in the States too, with the New York Clipper known particularly for it:

Prof. Chas. F. Cook, Practical Horse and Cattle Trainer [...] would like a partner. [...] (Kickers and drunkards, save your stamps.)

New York Clipper (1897) 4 December, p. 668

The San Antonio Gazette (Texas) associates the formula with ‘booze’:

We have a dramatic nut in our little colony in the shape of Barret Bandmann Booth, who is ‘paying his own’ while he answers ads in the theatrical papers reading something like this:

‘Wanted – at once, for med. show, all-round comedian, and heavy, with changes for a week, who can double in brass; booze fighters and knockers save your stamps; state all in first. Old Dr. Sam’s Herb Troubadours, Pink Eye, Wis.’

San Antonio Gazette (1905) 7 March, p. 4

Joyce may well have seen the formula reported in James Redding Ware’s Passing English of the Victorian era: a dictionary of heterodox English (1909), where his very words appear on page 55:

Bum-boozer (Theatr.). A desperate drinker. It is to be feared that this line has been seen in the advertisements for artistes in the commoner theatrical papers : 'Bum-boozers — save your stamps.'

In fact, this occurrence of ‘bum-boozer’, of which Ware seems unfamiliar (it was also a name for a type of playing marble), may simply represent some confusion for ‘bum’ and ‘boozer’. A little later the Des Moines Daily News (Iowa) has:

Man – Middleaged or old. Wanted. Good home and good wages to man able to do some hard work the year round on the farm. Do not answer this ad unless wanting a good home and steady work. No bum or boozer wanted.

Des Moines Daily News (1917) 16 December, p. 14

Whatever the case, the formula belongs to the world of cheap theatricals, not church missions.

Harald Beck/John Simpson

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