Summary

Round yellow metal tin of Piccaninny Paste Wax Floor Polish manufactured by Piccaninny Manufacturing Co. Manly, NSW. The tin also includes an image of the head of either an African American or an Aboriginal person.

In the USA the term 'piccaninny', 'picanninny', 'picaninny' and other variations were used to describe African American or black children in a derogatory and patronising way. Many of these images depict children with exaggerated features such as large red lips or large noses and depict them as natural buffoons. In Australia, the term picanninny was adopted in a similar patronising way to describe Aboriginal children who were likewise depicted as part of nature and at an equal level with native animals.

The company Piccaninny Manufacturing Co made a number of home maintenance products including wax polishes, detergents, perfumed soaps, floor sealers and plastic finishes through the 1920s to 1960s. Another example is: 'Piccaninny 'Pic-a-lyptus' antiseptic eucalyptus disinfectant', a bottle of which is held by the National Museum of Australia.

Physical Description

Round yellow metal tin of Piccaninny Paste Wax Floor Polish. Includes an image of the head of either an African American or an Aboriginal person. Can is empty

Significance

The significance of the tin of Piccaninny Paste Wax Floor Polish lies primarily in its use of the word picanninny and the image of either an Aboriginal or African head on the tin used to market a common domestic product. The ambiguity of the image is interesting as it suggests a random black person rather than necessarily being specific and is illustrative of the way black imagery and terminology was imported from the United States of America and adapted in Australia in this period, 1940s-1950s.

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