Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Question from TudorRose - Contriband Blue

I think that the chocolate blue riband got its name from the colour that was most popular in Elizabehan England contriband blue. What does everybody else think?

6 comments:

PhD Historian said...

I have to ask for clarification: What is "the chocolate blue riband"? I know what a riband is, but I have never heard of one described as "chocolate blue." Nor have I ever heard of "contriband/contraband blue." Please clarify.

Lara said...

I think TudorRose is referring to the Nestle Blue Riband chocolate biscuits. Once I figured that out, I think the only thing Nestle is going for is "blue riband" equalling "blue ribbon". But I don't know where the practice of ribbon of the color blue equalling "the best" came from. Perhaps that is the Elizabethan connection that TudorRose is asking about?

Foose said...

I found a Website that specializes in Elizabethan colors:

http://www.guildofstmichael.org/lizcolor.html

It mentioned "Coventry blue" as very popular among the Elizabethans. Could this be what is meant?

Lots of other great color names at the Website: Dying Monkey, Goose-Turd, Pease-Porridge Tawnie and my favorite, Puke.

Colleen said...

Foose - I like "Dead Spaniard" myself, a pale greyish tan. What a cool site!

Foose said...

I can't find any information on the origin of the color of Nestle's Blue Riband chocolate biscuits. Even Nestle doesn't know whether they started making them in 1936 or 1937.

I did see that the British ship the Queen Mary won the Blue Riband in 1936, which appears to have been a national triumph (the French ship the Normandie won it the year before). Maybe the biscuits were a patriotic response to this.

PhD Historian said...

The Blue Riband that the Queen Mary won in 1936 was a prize for the passenger ship that crossed the Atlantic in the shortest amount of time (i.e., had the fastest speed over water). The Riband originated in about 1833 when steamships first began crossing the Atlantic and speed was one of their major selling points. The Riband, actually a very long blue pennant, was a good advertising symbol, so steamship lines began to compete to win it. After all, it represented a speed record.

And yes, there was considerable national pride wrapped up in winning and holding the Riband, just as there is today with winning the World Cup in football/soccer or with gold medal counts in the Olympics or (in the 1960s) being the first country to get a man on the moon. When a ship captured the pennant from a rival, it was usually front-page news.

Britain's Cunard Line and White Star Line dominated the competition for over a century.

By 1936 when the Queen Mary first won it for Cunard White Star (combined into one company in 1934), the "official" Riband was hugely long ... more than half a ship's length. The Mary held the Riband longer than any other single vessel, from 1938 to 1952. The Blue Riband was retired in 1952, after being captured by the S.S. United States, as airliners began to take over the crossing speed records.

The question is whether Nestle named the Blue Riband Bar after the shipping pennant. Nestle was a Swiss company, and Switzerland was never involved in the pennant race. But the bar was created in 1936 or 1937, when Riband competition was at a fever pitch as the Riband passed back and forth annually between the French Normandie (1935 and 1937)and the British Queen Mary (1936 and 1938). The competition was so intense that new ships, including the Mary, were actually designed with the specific intention of capturing the Riband. I can easily imagine Nestle capitalizing on the fame of the shipping pennant competition by naming a product after the pennant. And the naming may indeed have been a "partiotic response," since Britain and France represented two of Nestle's largest markets.

(In addition to being a Tudor historian, I am also a big Cunard fan. For several years now, my travels to the UK to do research have always been via NYC on either the QE2 [retired last November to Dubai] or the Queen Mary 2. I am a Platinum member of the Cunarder World Club. And I have visited the original Queen Mary at her permanent home in nearby Long Beach, CA, many times. Cunard is the only way to travel transatlantic!)