The Black and Blue Reviver

11th August 2014 — 19 Comments

I’ve been taking another look at those fascinating tokens found by detectorists and recorded on the UKDFD. Look at the example below – what a lot information in so cramped a space! It was described on the database thus:

An advertising token of the 19th century, issued by Thomas Pryce, oil and colourman, of London. (Colourman: one who prepares and sells paint.) Both addresses shown on the token (1 York Buildings and 12 [Northampton Place], opposite Surrey Place) are in the Old Kent Road. Thomas Pryce is known to have been in occupation of both premises in 1827, and of the latter until 1840, when Thomas Eastman Pryce continued the business.




For anyone not fully understanding the reverse legend, research can lead into unsuspecting places. In this instance it led me to a Sketches by Boz by Charles Dickens, entitled, Shabby – Genteel People. Here’s an extract:


CC Licence

His clothes were a fine, deep, glossy black; and yet they looked like the same suit; nay, there were the very darns with which old acquaintance had made us familiar. The hat, too–nobody could mistake the shape of that hat, with its high crown gradually increasing in circumference towards the top. Long service had imparted to it a reddish-brown tint; but, now, it was as black as the coat. The truth flashed suddenly upon us–they had been ‘revived.’

It is a deceitful liquid that black and blue reviver; we have watched its effects on many a shabby-genteel man. It betrays its victims into a temporary assumption of importance: possibly into the purchase of a new pair of gloves, or a cheap stock, or some other trifling article of dress. It elevates their spirits for a week, only to depress them, if possible, below their original level. It was so in this case; the transient dignity of the unhappy man decreased, in exact proportion as the ‘reviver’ wore off. 

It’s good to get the views of a contemporary observer. We no longer scratch our heads over the term black and blue reviver continually wondering what the Dickens the phrase could mean!


Following the death of Princess Charlotte Augusta of Wales in 1817, the following appeared in the Maidstone Journal and Kentish Advertiser:

J Smith, High Street, Maidstone respectfully informs his friends and the public that he has just received a fresh supply of Dr. Winn’s true anticardium or Paris Black Reviver which has had the effect of restoring in a few minutes every description of Ladies and Gentlemans Faded Mourning – black hats, silk stockings, lace silks and muslins, velvets, cottons and jean boots without injuring the texture of the most delicate article. It removes dirt and grease. Prepared and sold by T Pryce (the sole possessor of the secret) in one shilling bottles. JS can confidently recommend it to families at this time of General Mourning. 



The advert appeared in a newspaper of the period. I have copied it from a free ebook digitised by Google. Opticians in those days must have done a roaring trade with print so small and copy so densely packed with lack of paragraphs and white space.

THOMAS EASTMAN PRYCE, OIL and COLOURMAN, near the Bricklayers Arms, Kent Road, London so proprietor of the WINN’S TRUE ANTICARDIUM, PARIS BLACK and BLUE REVIVER, thinks it necessary to caution the public against several spurious imitations of the above articles and to ensure Ladies and Gentlemen, the … increased demand is the best proof of its rare and estimable qualities … offered for the restoration of every description of Faded Mourning, removing dirt and grease and will not injure the most delicate items … TEP deems it expedient to inform his Friends that the above is prepared by himself only …


When this post was published earlier Michael Butcher commented :

John, I have just started to collect London Advertising Tokens and have very recently purchased an example of the curious Dr Winn’s. I was delighted to read your Blog on the subject and it all now makes sense. Many thanks.

Later – Michael sent me the following message in December 2014:

John here it is (the stoneware bottle – see Mike’s comment below). It all started when I saw your blog and realised you were also a writer in The Searcher. I’m an old hand now 66 and all that; detectorist, Hon. mudlark, bottle digger, collector … the Dr Winn’s token came from Canada of all places, then I found an example of the bottle, perfect, looked for a copy of Boz to complete – mine’s mid 19th. A great read – cheers Mike.


© Mike Butcher – Click to Enlarge

What a wonderful combination. I especially like the arrangement with the jar and token resting on a copy of Dickens’ Sketches by Boz. Thanks for your contribution, Mike!


Thanks to the UKDFD finder John Kineavy … this post contains additional material to that published previously



How delighted I was to receive a communication from Lynda Pynn who let me know that she had found a Dr. Winn’s token whilst searching last week in Plymouth. She said:

This led me to the wonderful research you have put together on the subject. Prior to last Sunday, I had no idea what a colour man was …

Thank you for contacting me, Lynda. I’m pleased that I was able to help.


Lynda’s Token © Lynda Pynn


Scott Sweet contacted me about a token he found in Gawler, South Australia. He says, “. . . the only real information I found on it was yours, so just thought I’d share with you, cheers.”

Thank you Scott.

© Scott Sweet


Stuart Woolger, friend of Lynda Pynn ( see above ) who pointed him towards my blog, found his rather toasted token on old pasture in an East Devon coastal village. He was using a Nox 800.

Courtesy of Stuart Woolger



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19 responses to The Black and Blue Reviver

  1. Pretty interesting stuff. I would have never know what they were talking about. Thanks for sharing.

  2. An early version of Febreeze, but, if use on that token, it was a patina reviver.

  3. Well that is something I never knew about, when I first saw your “The Black and Blue Reviver” header my first thoughts was what do people with black & blue bruises want to be enhancing the colouring for.
    Very interesting.

  4. Excellent research as usual John thanks for sharing

  5. When I first started reading the article I thought that it was a type of quack medicine restorative which used to be sold to the masses. However, I think downing a mouthful of this potion would have a very negative effect.

    • When this was first posted, the title was “The Deceitful Liquid”, a quote from Dickens. Good to see that its still living up to its name – Randy and the Diva were also fooled I see!

  6. i think whoever wrore that ,was drinking out of a bottle

  7. I had a relative who was employed as a “Colourman”. Never knew what that was. Well researched as usual John.

  8. Great research, John. I wonder what the stuff was made of, or whether any bottle collectors have examples of it.

  9. John further to my previous post concerning Dr Winns l have now managed to obtain the stoneware Dr Winn’s bottle ,full set so to speak

  10. I like tokens they are often a personal window into past lives occupations and activities.
    keep up the excellent work John. Jerry.

  11. I am a machine driver and I dug a bottle up like the one on the book are they worth anything

  12. Krystyna Wollen

    “I was interested in finding the information about Dr Winn’s Black and Blue reviver today as I just dug a stoneware bottle out of my back garden. Its perfectly intact, and I thought it was some kind of medicine, a tonic … So finding your article was so interesting. I had a bit of a laugh at myself though …”

  13. Stuart Woolger 7th July 2019 at 8:18 PM

    I just dug up one of these tokens in East Devon, my detecting friend Lynda, sent me a link to this post as she had found one of the tokens as well and I see she is mentioned above. Interesting post. Cheers Stuart

    • I’ll include yours too Stuart, if you wish.
      Just give me a few words and a decent picture of both sides.

      Have sent you an email . . .

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