- Collection ID:
Miller, J. & D. (Bronx, New York)
Miller, Joseph (cutlery dealer)
Cultural History, Division of (NMAH, SI).
- Physical Description:
Letters, envelopes and other business records relating to the cutlery business of J & D Miller, Bronx, New York.
Scope and Contents
Scope and Contents
The collection is divided into three series. The first series consists of personal documents relating to Joseph Miller's life and his family history. The second series consists of business records from the cutlery shop; this series contains four subseries, including purchase orders from the United States, purchase orders from foreign countries, photographs, and miscellaneous business records. The third series contains materials relating to the collection itself and how it came to the Smithsonian Institution.
Collection is divided into 4 series.
Series 1: Personal, circa 1885-1971
Series 2: Business, circa 1950-1992
Biographical / Historical
Biographical / Historical
Joseph Miller (1885-1971) was born in Russia, a second son in a Jewish family of seven children. All nine Millers emigrated to the United States in the early twentieth century, bringing with them the family cutlery business. Joseph became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1912, and in 1917, he joined his brother David in business, forming J & D Miller. The shop specialized in fashioning circumcision knives and kosher knives, like the schochet, for rabbis and mohels. In addition, the company also made knives for surgeons, circus performers, and industrial uses, sold sharpening stones, and accepted dull or broken knives for repair. The company of J & D Miller, communicating in English and Yiddish, shipped its merchandise all over the United States and to foreign countries as remote as Afghanistan, Argentina, and Algeria.
Joseph had two children, Irving and Irene, by his first wife, Essie. In 1961, Joseph lost an adult son, possibly a child from his second marriage, to Gertie. Although Joseph retired from J & D Miller in 1955 at the age of 70, he continued fashioning knives in a basement workshop of his Laurelton home. At his death at 86, Joseph was still receiving international requests for his knives. Joseph was committed to keeping the Miller clan together in America; his poems and family correspondence reveal a man devoted to his family.
Collection processed by Jolie V. Matedne, February 2003.
The Division of Work and Industry holds a knifemakers shop sign in Yiddish. See accession 1992.0391.
This 1920s free-standing, wood–framed oilcloth window sign from the knife shop of Russian–immigrants Joseph and David Miller in the Lower East Side of New York City uses four implements and a legend in Yiddish to advertise their commercial offerings.
The sign reads:Do iz Millers a brentsh [Here are Miller's forgings]Di Miller halafim un mohel messer [The Miller ritual slaughter blades and circumcision knives]zaynen di beste un sheynste [are the best and most beautiful]in der gantser velt [in the whole world]garantirt keyn mol nit tsu rosten [Guaranteed never to rust]
The Miller shop, at 25 Canal Street, made ritual Jewish cutlery for the shochet (butcher) and for the mohel (circumcisionist), using extreme care in the hand fabrication of each instrument. The large rectangular knife (gasos halef) on the sign was used to slaughter cattle, the small rectangular knife (ofos halef) was for poultry; the curved implement is a circumcision clamp (mohel mashinke); and the double sided knife is a circumcision knife (mohel messer). In compliance with Jewish tradition, great emphasis is placed upon cleanliness, speed, efficiency, and the minimization of pain in the use of these instruments.
Immediate Source of Acquisition
Donated by Irene Galdston in 1992.
Using the Collection
Terms Governing Use and Reproduction
Collection items available for reproduction, but the Archives Center makes no guarantees concerning copyright restrictions. Other intellectual property rights may apply. Archives Center cost-recovery and use fees may apply when requesting reproductions.
Restrictions on Access
Collection is ope for research.
Joseph Miller Collection, 1895-1992, Archives Center, National Museum of American History.
Transferred to the Archives Center from the Division of Cultural History, now the Division of Cultural and Community Life.
Archives Center, National Museum of American History
P.O. Box 37012
Suite 1100, MRC 601
Washington, D.C. 20013-7012