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Wright and Co. featured in exhibit

Keene metal polish company created silver polish from bog mud

An exhibit featuring the history of J.A. Wright and Company will open at the Historical Society of Cheshire County on Saturday from 9 a.m. to noon.

An R.G. Dun credit reporting company representative could not quite figure out a new Keene business in the 1870s when he reported that J.A. Wright’s silver polish company consisted of an odd collection of wooden boxes filled with unusual dirt.

John A. Wright, an amateur geologist who was familiar with chemistry, had come across the dirt one day in 1872 when he saw a cow stuck in the mud in a bog south of Keene. He noticed that the dark mud on the cow’s legs became lighter and lighter in color after it dried.

The dirt was “diatomaceous earth,” which consisted of fossilized remains of diatoms, a type of microscopic hard-shelled algae.

The fossils were abrasive enough to polish metal, but were so small that they would not scratch it. Wright soon went to work mining, storing, drying, and preparing the substance for commercial use.

J.A. Wright & Co. grew into one of the leading metal polish manufacturers in the world, manufacturing fine metal polishes in Keene until 2006 and continues to operate in Gurnee, Ill. The history of the company illustrates the curiosity, ingenuity, and hard work of company founder J.A. Wright.

He not only built a nationally known business from a bog full of ‘unusual dirt,’ but he also patented several inventions and was involved in the formation of other Keene businesses.

J.A. Wright and his descendants operated and expanded the Silver Cream business for five generations.

The Historical Society's exhibit will focus on the fascinating story of this inventor and businessman, his various companies, and especially the J.A. Wright silver polish company.

When the company removed from Keene, the Wright family donated the company archives and museum to the Historical Society of Cheshire County. These materials form the basis of this exhibit.

Samples of the silver polish will be available to exhibit visitors, provided by the current owners of the company.

Historical Society hours are Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Wednesdays from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., and first and third Saturdays from 9 a.m. to noon.

Admission is free but donations are appreciated.

For more information, contact the Historical Society of Cheshire County at 352-1895 or

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