With the cherry blossom season drawing to a close, in London at least (though I was in Nottingham last week and the blossom there is still in full flower and looked fantastic), I thought I’d do a final cherry blossom post about Chiswick’s famous Cherry Blossom shoe polish.
The company making Cherry Blossom shoe polish started off making soap. It was founded in 1878 by brothers Charles and Dan Mason in a small soap factory at the junction of Hogarth Lane and Burlington Lane in Chiswick in west London. They made Red Poppy and Primrose soft soaps as well as Forget-me-not furniture polish and Buttercup metal polish.
In 1906 they launched Cherry Blossom Boot Polish, a boot polish that wouldn’t rub off the way boot blacking did, which was sold in handy tins in three sizes for 2d, 4d and 6d. The name was apparently chosen because Chiswick was famous for its cherry blossom, but the design on the tin, still practically unchanged since the company was founded, shows stylised cherries and leaves.
The polish did so well that in 1907 they introduced smaller tins for 1d that were made using circular pieces of tin plate left over in the making of other products, and invested in machinery to mechanise the mixing and filling of tins. In 1911 they hired the whole of the long-running Exhibition at the Crystal Palace for a full day, offering free admission on presentation of a lid from a Cherry Blossom tin.
In 1913 a separate company, Chiswick Polish Company was formed, jointly owned by the Mason family and Reckitt & Sons Ltd, and soap production was moved to Kent. In 1929 they amalgamated with Nugget Polish Company Ltd to form Chiswick Products Ltd.
In 1924 they introduced the ‘fish-plate’ metal opener on Cherry Blossom lids, followed by butterfly opening tins, which gave way to today’s ‘press to open’ lids in 1983. In 1954 Chiswick Products Ltd merged into the newly-formed Reckitt & Colman Holdings Ltd and became integrated into the Reckitt empire. In 1994 Grangers of Alfreton Derbyshire acquired the Cherry Blossom brand name and continue to produce Cherry Blossom shoe polish.
Shoe polish is actually made out of wax which is purified, tested and measured to exact chemical formulae, and then shot into steam-heated melters where the wax becomes liquid. It’s then run through pipes to steam-heated mixing pots where dyes or pigments are added and mixed.
Cherry Blossom is now the only remaining UK manufacturer of shoe polish.