Reliable rubber goods – perish the thought!
U 15.3256-7: Rubber goods. Neverrip brand as supplied to the aristocracy. Corsets for men. I cure fits or money refunded.
I’d like to thank Robbert-Jan Henkes for drawing our attention to a web page containing a set of condom wrappers from the 1930s and 40s,1 as one of these (below) illustrates the ‘Neverrip brand’.
‘Never-rip’ has been an advertiser’s expression since the late nineteenth century, but specifically with reference to clothing. With mass-produced garments taking over from the old home-made ones, customers were worried that the seams might spring apart. To counter this, manufacturing and retail companies stressed that their clothes ‘would not rip’. Ike Wolf, for example, ‘The Favorite and the Double Front’ store of Sterling, Illinois, proudly announced that it was agent for, amongst other things, “Orr & Co.’s Never-Rip Overalls” (Sterling (Illinois) Gazette (1881) 5 November, p. 8).2 We now know that ‘Neverrip’ was a brand name for condoms in the 1930s/40s. But can we confirm that the name was known when Ulysses was published?
It’s hard to find documentary evidence for this sort of term from English-language sources at this time. Condom brand-names were just not considered suitable reading for the masses. So we look abroad, and documentary evidence is precisely what we find.
Over in the Netherlands, Het Volk (‘The People’) for 20 January 1917 (p. 4) carried adverts for all sorts of ‘healthy’ sex aids. The Magazijn ‘Hygiéa’ of Amsterdam offered ‘Gummiwaren’ (rubber goods, condoms) by the dozen:
(Koninklijke Bibliotheek: Historische Kranten)
Syringes, condoms – anything to advance the New Malthusianism (population control) that was taking hold in Europe – could be bought from the chemist’s, De Olifant, on Hartenstraat, amongst the canals in central Amsterdam. If the Dutch were advertising the Capote Anglaise under its English brand name in 1901, you can be sure that they were readily available (even if only under the counter or by mail order: see U 17.1804-5) to Dubliners too.
1 "Sold for the Prevention of Disease Only": http://www.ep.tc/condom-envelopes/ (accessed 6 January 2011).
2 Perhaps Joyce was thinking of this earlier use when he wrote of ‘neverrip mud and purpular cap’ (FW 39) (see also the Buffalo Notebooks 42).
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