History of Whiz Hollingshead Wax of Camden

Hollingshead Vinyl WaxCAMDEN – We love the odd old brands. And one brand that could have been Armor All was Whiz Hollingshead. Whiz Hollingshead made all sorts of waxes and fluids for cars, as well as other products. The company was sort of the S.C. Johnson of the East Coast; their main product was Whiz Floor Wax.

At right, some vinyl top wax that appears to date from the 1960s; we happened upon it in a family garage.

We should have tested it out, or against some new Armor All.

The company was founded by Richard Milton Hollingshead, and also sold anti-freeze, as well as saddle soap. The brand Whiz was well known for many household products, including early stove cleaners. While it appears the vinyl top polish is no longer on the market, we recall that Whiz Hollingshead is famous for something else. Namely a spectacular fire that hit Camden, New Jersey.

Read about it on a great site of the Delaware Valley Rhythm and Blues Society:

A fire following a series of explosions in the R. M. Hollingshead Corpora­tion plant at Camden, N. J., on July 30, 1940, quickly assumed conflagration proportions due to ignition of large quantities of flammable liquids used in the manufacture of such items as auto grease, oil, anti-freeze, metal polish, wax, auto-top dressing, tire coating, brake fluid, paint remover, soap, antiseptics, and insecticides.

In the fire, 10 people died and over 100 were injured. It spread not only to factories but to nearby houses. Reports had 60 families homeless.


  • Garland Pollard

    J. Garland Pollard IV is editor/publisher of BrandlandUSA. Since 2006, the website BrandlandUSA.com has chronicled the history and business of America’s great brands.


  1. I have 40 one quart cans of whiz oil lubrication aircraft instrument and machine gun.. us army spec no 2-27D also 1 can is a misprint of the label upside down. I am looking for any serious buyers. Contact me at jake.goodson@yahoo.com

  2. Hey all, I’ve had a 4 oz bottle of general purpose wepon oil in my possesion since early 90s , it says aug 70 batch and has lots of military numbers etc. Were these common?? I’m in Australia too; it ended up here. I thought it may be Vietnam era?

  3. Hi…I am working on a story about what happened at the plant when it exploded. Anyone have details relating to an employee there: 24 year old William “Bill” C. Tait. He left 6 months after the plant explosion, joined the army as a bomb disposal expert. He died in France in a munitions accident. Trying to find out more about him. Weird that he lived throught the plant explosion just to die on French soil in an explosion. I am trying to find out more about him. Specifically: why did he join the army as a bomb disposal expert, any family members still alive who know of him and his back story. He was friends with my Dad who was the Captain of his unit. I appreciate any information. I am cobbling all this togehter now. (4/2/16) Thanks! Elaine Peake – ElainePeake247@gmail.com

  4. I have a whiz Automotive products display that is immaculate. I have some questions concerning the date and history of this item. Confirm contact via email and I will send you a picture

  5. If anyone has questions about Hollingshead or Whiz items contact me, been collecting for 30 years. Always looking to buy signs, posters, product displays, products etc.

    1. trying to info on products sold to military 1970s with trichloroethylene TCE. they were a big supplier of solvents and gun cleaners and lubricant’s. any info would be great. thank you.

    2. Richard Milton Hollingshead was my sons great grandfather. Where can I find a keepsake item or even pictures of things to show my son?

      1. Author

        I don’t have any more information except what is here. I would keep an eye out on eBay using those search terms, and also look for information at any local museums. Sometimes public libraries have vertical files as well.


  7. I bought an antique whiz metal advertising shelf. I want to sell it but not sure of best place to sell. It is rusty but still so cool. Any advice?

  8. I worked there in the summer of 1969, a summer college-break job. At the time they made a number of products, many not their own, including an auto oil additive, CD2, and virtually every brake fluid you can think of. That’s where I learned that all brake fluids came in the same cone-top can because they were all the same stuff, filled from the same canning machine.

    Another product was Glass Wax, and the end of the Glass Wax production line was notable by the pink ceiling over the boxing station, where the operator of that machine had learned that all he had to do was throw a lever on his machine and it would try to jam 24 cans into a box intended for 16 (envision the metal frame responsible for picking up a set of cans and moving them to the box compressing to 16 while holding 24), resulting in a brief break from work while the engineers located and fixed the problem.

    Their main competition in that type of business was Continental Can Company. CCC had a brand mark of three concentric Cs, printed at the bottom of the can, near the seam, and Hollingshead’s was, if I remember correctly, an H in a circle at the same spot.

    At the time I was there, 30 years after the fire, they still talked about it and fire safety was on everyone’s mind all of the time. The last time I went by (you pass by on Admrial Wilson Blvd, coming out of Camden, about a mile past the old Sears, on the other side of the road) the building was still standing, but empty and rotting.

    On google maps, 1601 us 30 camden nj takes you to the wall beyond which stands the remains of the factory. When I was there, it covered the whole block between 16th and 17th. About 200 feet past that wall on 16th is the Glass Wax Explosion site, on the first floor, in the only building still standing.

  9. I have what seems to be the only brown glass bottle of Whiz motor Rythm in existence! Well, existence being the internet and all my searching. It appears to me that the Whiz Motor Products follow a similar path as Shaler Riselone. SR bottled their first product. I think Whiz must have done the same. I think this bottle must predate the 1940’s.

  10. I bought a old {I quess it would be called an ink die stamp} for Whiz Auto top dressing. Does anyone know when this company starting. Thanks, Billie

  11. I was born around midnight on July 29, 1940. My dad told me that soon thereafter the Hollingshead plant blew up. He seemed to feel it may have been my fault since my later life was quite…umm…explosive.

  12. I purchased a Whiz table top display rack circa 1940’s and complete with Whiz Moror Rythm [ add to crankcase each oil change ] in various size containers at an auction. I’ve since located other Whiz automotive Products including 1920’s vintage unopened Whiz auto polish and a can of Whiz nickel polish. I’ve also added Whiz tire patch kits to my collection.

  13. I have a can of their vinyl top wax, probably from the 1970s or early 70s. It has a girl in a halter top waxing what appears to be a GM midsized—Pontiac Lemans or Olds Cutlass. The woman is hot. By the way, the product was fantastic. I used it on my Dad’s Cadillac vinyl tops—it made them shine. I kept the can, now displayed in my glass cabinet in my office at work.

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