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Monday, July 11, 2011

I Know from Shinola

Digging up the past is one of my favorite things to do.  I mean that literally and figuratively. Actually, I mean that I enjoy researching volumes of written information online, and hunting through old structures for items from yesterdays uncounted. I was able to do both this past weekend. No Sh**! 
This is one of the olde tyme products that is so long forgotten that it doesn't matter to most when it existed or why it doesn't now. However, Most people can't forget this product from a phrase made popular somewhere around WWII, "You don't know shit from Shinola!"  Easy to understand the vulgar comparison and energy of the statement directed at someone who is accused of lesser intelligence. I still have the imagery of the scene from "The Jerk" Steve Martin's comedy of a dumb-ass' journey from his simple beginnings to millionaire inventor and then back again. As he put it, "I was born a poor black child." Martin, plays a very white Navin Johnson and has a life lesson taught to him by his father. I had probably heard the phrase before, but this is the scene I think of when ever I hear the name "Shinola." 

This weekend, I had the opportunity to help my mother-in-law and aunt clear out the house of another relative. It's an old duplex built in the 20's and was marginally updated in 90 years, mostly with paint. Given the freedom to look around I marveled at the fixtures and other still visible elements of what a home might have looked like in the 20's and 30's.  The first thing that caught my attention was the hideaway ironing board. Still available today, many were a regular fixture in homes where space saving was helpful. I was more impressed that the latch still worked.  The surprise I got was the second cabinet door below the one concealing the board.

A hinge was missing an the latch long frozen over by layer upon layer of paint. There is nothing better that a cabinet that looks as if it hasn't been opened in a very long time.  A few taps on the latch with a hammer and several flecks of paint later...
Holy Shinola!  Not the gold and riches I was hoping for, but a treasure none-the-less.  Inside were a small collection of products that would have been placed there for their caustic or staining nature. This was clearly the "polish" cabinet as inside were several kinds and types of polish. Just to display a few:
 The stove polish helped to date the find. One was from 1923 and was used for the cast iron stoves that were black. Someone will have to explain to me what the exact desired effect would be for polishing a stove. Did these rust? The other products were mere shoe polish, less interesting than Shinola, but just as interesting to discover.  Here's an ad for Shinola, another company that doesn't have a good written history other than a few scraps from Wikipedia and a by-line as being bought and sold in 1929. 

The name hung on through the 30's and 40's but was possibly dropped when bought out by a larger manufacturer; I am just guessing. If you know more than I do, please leave something in the comments. I hope to go back to this house a look for more items hidden in the past.

1 comment:

  1. Great blog you've got
    thank you for your inspirasjon.
    Good day


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