Vintage Carr & Son Oil Blacking Tin


Out of Stock SKU: 1370

Vintage, round embossed tin of Carr & Son Oil Blacking with Lion motif

Established in Essex, England in 1837 by John Smith Carr, the firm Carr & Son, with their Lion & Rising Sun logo, were one of the leading manufactures of domestic and commercial polishes and leather-good preservatives.

The boot blacking and leather polish industries of the early 1800’s were obviously a pretty cut-throat business where secret recipes were jealously guarded and 'never a quarter given’.

One of Carr & Son's main competitors was the long established Day & Martin Company. 

Charles Day had formed a partnership with Richard Martin in the late 1700’s to supply boot polish and leather treatments to the British Army. 

The story circulated at the time was that a young Mr Day, then a Doncaster hairdresser by trade had provided shelter for the night to a wandering soldier. Unable to pay Day for his hospitality, the soldier had instead, provided him with the recipe for boot blacking which he had concocted to polish the boots of his superior officers and that together they opened a little shop at 97, High Holborn, London in 1770. 

The ‘military origins’ of Day’s brand of boot blacking obviously didn’t hurt in his pursuit of government contracts although the story was later denied by Day in 1835. The counter story was that the recipe had actually been communicated to Richard Martin whilst travelling on the continent and it was he who had later formed the partnership with Charles Day in 1801to begin the industrial production of blacking and polishes 

Like all blacking manufactures of the time, Day and Martin and their later competitor - Carr & Son had a flair for publicity and with fortunes to be made, competition was fierce.

Only a few years earlier the English landed-gentry had born witness to one of the most outrageous and scandalous court cases of the era when Charles Day & Richard Martin bought an action against a Henry Brown who was accused of counterfeiting their popular brand of boot blacking.

You can imagine the mirth and groans of the courtroom when Day & Martin’s barrister Mr Scarlet opened the case with the following statement:

’This is without doubt one of the darkest which had ever been presented to a jury. To introduce the present plaintiffs formally to the jury, would scarcely be requisite; for who, with the slightest pretension to polish, could be unacquainted with the names of Day and Martin? Could it be necessary to say, that those gentlemen by stooping to the feet, had raised themselves to the head of society? Needed it to be observed in the year 1821, that their fame had spread through every clime, where shoes were made of leather? Did not their puffs and poems enrich every newspaper of the day? and would not they themselves go down to posterity the blackest, yet the brightest, characters of the age? 

Mr Scarlet went onto to remind the jury that the plaintiffs name was in fact Brown... 'and that he would make a liquid which he called black, but which, like him, was brown. Each flask, like Pandora’s box, contained thousand ills: it burned up good men’s shoes, did harm to harness, and, lustreless, defied the sweating valet’s toll 

To sell this, villainous composition, however, was Brown’s chiefest care; and how did the jury think the wicked end had been attained? Knowing that his own name would bring no buyers, the man of guile resolved to take another’s: he printed a quantity of labels in imitation of the labels of the plaintiffs; pasted them at leisure upon his spurious bottles; and uttered his own base compound to the world, as the genuine blacking of the illustrious Day and Martin like his poor imitation of Day & Martin’s famous Blacking'.

Although Brown strenuously denied the accusations, the Defence case collapsed dramatically when a local printer admitted he had in fact run off some 2.500 counterfeit labels which Brown had then pasted over his substitute product’s bottle and sold to unsuspecting customers. 

The jury found Brown guilty and awarded damages to Day & Martin of the princely sum of $15 pound.

In the end however it seems like the ‘slow & steady' won the race and Carr & Son eventually took over the Day & Martin operation in 1923 - amalgamating it into their own popular range of polishes and boot finishes - the most familiar being Dubbin’.

Judging by the weight of the tin, I would say it still contains its original Oil Blacking content but there is a bit of rust around the tin lid which I don’t want to disturb so I’ll leave the unveiling to you, but give no assurances that some rogue by the name of Brown hasn't attempted to substitute its contents!

The tin appears to still retain its Oil Blacking contents although this has not been checked. 75mm in diameter and 20mm deep, it appears to be in pretty good condition for its age.