Kiwi Shoe Polish: Shine Sir (1914)

Kiwi Shoe Polish: Shine Sir (1914)
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This Kiwi shoe polish cinema advertisement is a short narrative about two boys who want to apply for the vacant positions at the Imperial Hotel, London. The hotel’s boot staff have departed to join the Army. The two boys lament that they can not clean boots so an Australian soldier buys them a tin of Kiwi boot polish each. The Hotel Manager is so impressed with the boys’ work that he hires them for a trial.

After their trial goes surprisingly well, the hotel manager exclaims 'You boys and Kiwi are the goods’! The advertisement ends with a close-up of an animated drawing of Kiwi Boot Polish and the Kiwi bird that squawks the words 'Kiwi! Kiwi! Kiwi!’.

Summary by Elizabeth Taggart-Speers

It wasn’t until the early years of the twentieth century that leather became readily available to the masses and with the advent of war, the demand for well polished boots lead to the need for an easy to use boot polish. Kiwi shoe polish was the first of its kind. At the same time, shoe polishers increased in number and popularity.

This silent black and white Kiwi Boot Polish cinema advertisement from 1914 illustrates what employers on the home front faced when their staff enlisted themselves into the war effort.

The advertisement uses intertitles to provide story context and present dialogue. Cinema advertisements at this time often ended with a close-up of the product.

Notes by Elizabeth Taggart-Speers

Education Notes

This clip shows a silent, black-and-white cinema advertisement for Kiwi Boot Polish. It opens with the intertitle saying that the Boot-Room staff at the Hotel Imperial have joined up. Two of the men who clean the guests’ boots come into the manager’s office, one after the other, to say they have enlisted. The manager warmly shakes the first one’s hand but the second is urged to reconsider. Faced with a critical staff shortage, the manager writes a sign advertising for boot boys, underlining the last word.

Educational value points

  • On-screen advertisements were part of the cinema program from its beginnings in 1895. The first cinema advertising consisted of primitive announcements scratched or painted onto slides. Moving-image advertisements were made from about 1900 and, as the cinema became increasingly popular, advertisers used film as a marketing tool to reach a wide audience. This advertisement helped Kiwi Boot Polish become one of Australia’s most successful products.
  • Most of the early advertisements revolved around a story, and audiences often found them as entertaining as the feature film. This story-based approach is used by advertisers today, but contemporary commercials are shorter than this Kiwi Boot Polish advertisement, which in its entirety ran for about six minutes.
  • Before about 1930, films were both silent and black-and-white. The size and weight of the camera meant that films tended to have long static shots, such as the ones in this clip, and few close-ups. Intertitles were used to help tell the story or present key dialogue. Actors often used facial expressions and gestures to convey what they were feeling or doing, as here when the men and the manager point to the recruitment poster to indicate that they are discussing enlistment.
  • A 'boot room’ is now unknown in contemporary hotels but in the early 20th century most men and women wore lace-up or button-up boots during the day. These boots were made of leather and so required polishing. The employees shown in this clip were responsible for polishing the hotel guests’ boots whenever required, although most polishing was done at night.
  • Kiwi Boot Polish, launched in 1908, revolutionised shoe polish in that it not only added shine but also preserved leather and restored colour. Scottish expatriates William Ramsay and Hamilton McKellan began making shoe polish in a small factory in Melbourne in 1904. Originally called Mirror Polish, it was relaunched in 1906 as Kiwi, a name Ramsay chose as a tribute to his New Zealander wife.
  • In marketing their product through cinema advertising, Ramsay and McKellan took advantage of a marketing tool that was in its infancy. The history of the company suggests that the partners were aware of the benefits of marketing, for in 1912 Ramsay’s father John took Kiwi to England, where he pitched it directly to the British Army, with the result that by 1917 Kiwi was providing the British Army with wholesale supplies of shoe polish.
  • The clip shows that women worked in offices in this period. From the late 19th century, women increasingly participated in paid employment in the public sphere and from 1900, women, particularly young and single women, moved into offices in large numbers as typists, clerks and secretaries, transforming these jobs into predominantly female occupations.
  • Much of the equipment of an up-market manager’s office of the period is revealed in the clip. By 1914 telephones were widely used in such offices. The model shown here had a separate earpiece and no dial mechanism as callers were connected by an operator at an exchange. The desk is also equipped with an inkwell and nib pen, a blotter with paper to absorb the slow-drying ink and a rocker blotter, which was pressed over written documents, also to absorb ink.

Education notes provided by The Learning Federation and Education Services Australia

    Production Company:
    Kiwi International
    Production Company:
    London Press Exchange