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Productsshoe polish

Shinola is a defunct American brand of shoe polish. The Shinola Company, founded in Rochester, New York in 1877 as the American Chemical Manufacturing and Mining Company, produced the polish under a sequence of different owners until 1960. It was popular during the first half of the 20th century and entered the American lexicon in the phrase, "You don't know shit from Shinola," meaning to be ignorant. The brand name was acquired by the retail company Shinola in 2011.


Shinola home set, shoe polisher - Hallwyl Museum
A July 1912 review of Shinola shoe polish from Commercial America, a trade magazine of the time.

George Melancthon Wetmore (August 31, 1858 – June 10, 1923) was born in Gates, New York and, after attending military school, got a degree at the Rochester Business Institute. At age 18, he went to work for the American Chemical Manufacturing and Mining Company, which was founded in Rochester, New York (near Brown's Race) in 1877. The company was primarily focused on carpet cleaning, but sold several specialty products, including boot and shoe polish. Wetmore found that the polish was cheaply made, did not hold or bond well, and 95% of it was dyed black using lamp black. Wetmore designed a replacement and initially called it SHINOL′A. In 1886, Wetmore was promoted to vice president, and a few years later, to president of the company. By 1909, the company had moved to a larger facility to handle increasing orders.[1][2]

Shinola polish was noted for its distinct dark green tin with red and gold lettering. The tin came with a patented key "for the convenient lifting of the lid". Shinola was produced in several colors: black, white, oxblood, red, tan, and brown. Several Shinola-branded shoe shining accessories were sold as well, such as shoehorns and the Shinola Home Set which included a polisher, bristle dauber, and the polish itself.[1][3]

Known by 1917 as simply The Shinola Company, the firm saw success expand globally, selling especially well in Europe, during the rise of World War I as many young men entered the military and were expected to be well-dressed during training. After Wetmore's death in 1923, the company was sold and became part of the "2 in 1-Shinola-Bixby Corp.", beginning a series of acquisitions related to the brand.[4] In the 1940s, the polish became a product of Best Foods and was renamed to Shinola (losing the apostrophe). Corn Products Company of Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey later merged with Best Foods, and sold tins of the product as "New Shinola Wax", featuring a revised formula, as well as selling in a liquid form. In a 1945 ad that ran in Popular Mechanics magazine, Shinola marketed itself as a wax that could also be used as a polish for scratches in furniture, a polish for linoleum, and a finish for toy models (e.g. airplanes).[5] By the 1950s, it was sold as "Shinola Leather and Saddle Soap" by RIT Products, a division of Best Foods. In 1960, the company went out of business and the brand ceased to be produced.[1][6]

In 2011, venture capitalist Tom Kartsotis bought the rights to the brand name for a new retail company, Shinola. The company was founded in 2012, and produces several specialty goods, such as watches and leather goods, as well as a Shinola shoe polish manufactured by C.A. Zoes Manufacturing in Chicago.[6][7]

Cultural impact[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Shilling, Donovan A. (2011). "Chapter 6: Getting to Know Shinola". Rochester's Remarkable Past. Pancoast Publishing. ISBN 978-0-98-210907-6.
  2. ^ Book of Industrial Rochester (PDF). Rochester, NY: Rochester Chamber of Commerce. 1919. p. 89.
  3. ^ Commercial America staff (July 1912), "Shinola Polish and Polishers". Commercial America. 9 (1):33
  4. ^ "Trademark Status & Document Retrieval".
  5. ^ Popular Mechanics ad, 1945, p. 248
  6. ^ a b Klara, Robert (June 22, 2015). "How Shinola Went From Shoe Polish to the Coolest Brand in America". AdWeek.
  7. ^ "Our Story". C.A. Zoes Manufacturing. Retrieved December 19, 2016.
  8. ^ Martin, Gary (2015). "Doesn't know shit from Shinola". Phrase Finder. Retrieved January 29, 2015.
  9. ^ Miss Cellania (February 11, 2014). "Spectroscopic Discrimination of Shit from Shinola". The Annals of Improbable Research. Retrieved December 18, 2016.
  10. ^ "Shit from Shinola: The Jerk" (Video). Retrieved December 18, 2016 – via YouTube.
  11. ^ a b Phunky Phil. "Shit from Shinola in the Movies" (Video). Retrieved December 18, 2016 – via YouTube.
  12. ^ "Script, The Jerk". Retrieved December 18, 2016.
  13. ^ "Basic Instinct".
  14. ^ "Basic Instinct". Wikiquote. Retrieved December 18, 2016.
  15. ^ Parton, Dolly (September 2, 2008). "Dolly Parton - Shinola (Official Music Video)" (Video). Retrieved December 18, 2016 – via YouTube.
  16. ^ Moerder, Adam (September 21, 2005). "ROCK EXPERIMENTAL: Ween: Shinola, Vol. 1 CHOCODOG • 2005 7.6". Retrieved December 18, 2016. Dean and Gene issue an odds-and-sods collection of previously unreleased archival material Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  17. ^ Shteamer, Hank (November 14, 2012). "COUNTING DOWN: Ween Albums From Worst To Best". Retrieved December 18, 2016.
  18. ^ Greenland, Tom (2 March 2010). "John Scofield: Shinola". Retrieved 27 August 2013.
  19. ^ Shinola's original website (archived)
  20. ^ Rutledge, James: BBC, "Filmmakers Shynola get animated with Collective.", August 29, 2003, Accessed online, May 27, 2015 Archived December 19, 2005, at the Wayback Machine
  21. ^ "George Carlin, Filthy Words". Exploring Constitutional Conflicts. Retrieved December 18, 2016. The following is a verbatim transcript of "Filthy Words" (the George Carlin monologue at issue in the Supreme Court case of FCC v. Pacifica Foundation) prepared by the Federal Communications Commission...
  22. ^ "Madvillain - All Caps lyrics". Retrieved October 13, 2019. Take it from the TEC-9 holder/They bit but don't know their neck shine from Shinola

Further reading[edit]

  • Dalzell, Tom, ed. (2009). "shinola". The Routledge Dictionary of Modern American Slang and Unconventional English. Routledge. p. 863. ISBN 978-0-41-537182-7.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Popular Science (September 1945), Vol. 147, No. 3 ISSN 0161-7370 p 248

External links[edit]

The dictionary definition of know shit from Shinola at Wiktionary