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.
A tin of Shinola shoe polish
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.
Shinol'a 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". Shinol'a was produced in several colors: black, white, oxblood, red, tan, and brown. Several Shinol'a-branded shoe shining accessories were sold as well, such as shoehorns and the Shinol'a Home Set which included a polisher, bristle dauber, and the polish itself.
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. In the 1940s, the polish became a product of Best Foods and was renamed to Shinola (losing the apostrophe). Corn Products Company of Indianapolis, Indiana later acquired 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). 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.
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.
This section gives self-sourcing popular culture examples without describing their significance in the context of the article. (October 2019) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)
- Shinola was immortalized in colloquial English by the phrase "You don't know shit from Shinola", which first became widely popular during World War II.
- In the 1979 film comedy The Jerk, the character Navin R. Johnson (played by Steve Martin) is tested by "Daddy" (Richard Ward) on whether he knows the difference between shit and Shinola before leaving home.
- The phrase was used to a similar effect in Cleopatra Jones.
- The 1992 movie Basic Instinct features Gus telling Dr. Lamott, "Most times I can't tell shit from Shinola, Doc. What was all that you just said?"
- Dolly Parton wrote the song "Shinola" – which also uses a lyric that plays on the colloquial phrase – for her 2008 Backwoods Barbie album.
- Ween released a 2005 B-side and unreleased odds and ends compilation album – titled, Shinola, Vol. 1 on Chocodog Records – which plays on the colloquial phrase.
- The phrase has been grist for the mill for various musicians and artists. See Shinola (Energy Orchard album), an album by early 1990s Irish band Energy Orchard; Shinola (John Scofield album), a live album recorded in 1981 by jazz musician John Scofield; Shinola, an indie rock band from Chapel Hill, North Carolina that existed from 1994–1997; and Shynola, a group of visual artists from the UK that had exhibitions titled "Shinola".
- Comedian George Carlin used the phrase in his famously banned shtick, "Filthy Words", a/k/a "Seven dirty words", which became immortalized in FCC v. Pacifica Foundation, a First Amendment constitutional decision by the Supreme Court of the United States.
- Rapper MF DOOM referenced the phrase in the lyrics written for "Figaro" on the 2004 collaborative album Madvillainy. 
- Television show “The Golden Girls” Season 7 Episode 2: Rose: ”You know,back in Minnesota, I was known as the Sherlock Holmes of St. Olaf.” Dorothy: ”Figured out which one was Shinola, did you, Rose?” Rose: ”The hard way.”
- Shilling, Donovan A. (2011). "Chapter 6: Getting to Know Shinola". Rochester's Remarkable Past. Pancoast Publishing. ISBN 978-0-98-210907-6.
- Book of Industrial Rochester (PDF). Rochester, NY: Rochester Chamber of Commerce. 1919. p. 89.
- Commercial America staff (July 1912), "Shinola Polish and Polishers". Commercial America. 9 (1):33
- "Trademark Status & Document Retrieval". uspto.gov.
- Popular Mechanics ad, 1945, p. 248
- Klara, Robert (June 22, 2015). "How Shinola Went From Shoe Polish to the Coolest Brand in America". AdWeek.
- "Our Story". C.A. Zoes Manufacturing. Retrieved December 19, 2016.
- Martin, Gary (2015). "Doesn't know shit from Shinola". Phrase Finder. Retrieved January 29, 2015.
- Miss Cellania (February 11, 2014). "Spectroscopic Discrimination of Shit from Shinola". The Annals of Improbable Research. Retrieved December 18, 2016.
- "Shit from Shinola: The Jerk" (Video). Retrieved December 18, 2016 – via YouTube.
- Phunky Phil. "Shit from Shinola in the Movies" (Video). Retrieved December 18, 2016 – via YouTube.
- "Script, The Jerk". Retrieved December 18, 2016.
- "Basic Instinct". imsdb.com.
- "Basic Instinct". Wikiquote. Retrieved December 18, 2016.
- Parton, Dolly (September 2, 2008). "Dolly Parton - Shinola (Official Music Video)" (Video). Retrieved December 18, 2016 – via YouTube.
- Moerder, Adam (September 21, 2005). "ROCK EXPERIMENTAL: Ween: Shinola, Vol. 1 CHOCODOG • 2005 7.6". Pitchfork.com. Retrieved December 18, 2016.
Dean and Gene issue an odds-and-sods collection of previously unreleased archival materialCite journal requires
- Shteamer, Hank (November 14, 2012). "COUNTING DOWN: Ween Albums From Worst To Best". Retrieved December 18, 2016.
- Greenland, Tom (2 March 2010). "John Scofield: Shinola". allaboutjazz.com. Retrieved 27 August 2013.
- Shinola's original website (archived)
- 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
- "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...
- "Madvillain - All Caps lyrics". Genius.com. Retrieved October 13, 2019.
Take it from the TEC-9 holder/They bit but don't know their neck shine from Shinola
The dictionary definition of know shit from Shinola at Wiktionary