Letters, envelopes and other business records relating to the cutlery business of J & D Miller, Bronx, New York.
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:
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.
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.
Donated by Irene Galdston in 1992.
Collection is ope for research.
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.
Fourteen color photographic prints by Christina Patoski, depicting front-lawn and front-porch holiday displays (primarily Christmas) in various U.S. cities.
Scope and Contents:
The fourteen photographs in this group are Cibachrome prints from 35mm. Kodachrome slides, documenting front-lawn and front-porch holiday displays (primarily Christmas) in various U.S. cities, including a variety of economic, ethnic, and regional groups, architectural genres, and decorating styles, documenting a "unique seasonal custom found only in America." Several images suggest attempts to broaden the cultural/religious basis of the celebration, combining Jewish traditions with the Christmas decorating tradition. Cities documented are Denver, Fort Worth, Minneapolis, Sun Valley (Idaho), Manhattan and Brooklyn, N.Y., Corpus Christi, Dallas, Ft. Lauderdale, New Orleans, and Santa Fe.
The Cibachrome prints are horizontal on 16" x 20" paper, with 22" x 28" mats, except for "Holiday Spectacular," which was used on an introductory panel in ta national Museum of American History exhibition, without a mat.
Collection is unarranged.
Biographical / Historical:
Photographer, documentary producer, and journalist, Christina Patoski began photographing front-lawn and front-porch Christmas displays in 1973, in Fort Worth, Texas, beginning with a house on Diaz Street in the Como neighborhood. She called the photograph "Red Extravaganza," and it inspired her to photograph other houses. Driving up and down Fort Worth Streets at Christmastime with her saxophonist husband Johnny Reno, she worked exclusively at night. Concentrating at first on the most elaborate displays, she later sought simpler, more personal decorations, and became more discriminating. She repeated in many areas of the country as part of an ongoing project spread over many years. She is interested in documenting "unusual" elements of popular culture within a variety of topical fields.
She told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, "I've seen so much, that for me to stop and take a photo now, it has to be something special… I've noticed, though, that there are a lot of houses decorated this year. And to me, that indicates a sense of optimism… when people decorate, there's a sense of good feeling."
Her photographic technique is simple, employing two fifteen-year-old 35mm cameras and low-speed Kodachrome film, using commercial processing. She has been photographing since she was a child, when her father encouraged her. Graduating from the University of Minnesota School of Journalism, she spent several years in Minneapolis as a dancer, choreographer, and television editor. She returned to Fort Worth in 1976 to work in television news, but since 1979 has been a free-lance writer, radio reporter (contributing to National Public Radio's "All Things Considered), and a producer and writer.
She is interested in documenting unusual elements of popular culture (what she calls "weirdness"), such as her Texas Monthly story, illustrated with her portraits, on Texas women with "big" hair. She maintains files on longhorn steer, pyromaniacs, tornadoes, and cheerleading, and considers herself a "Margaret Mead of popular culture."
Jackie Koszczuk and Janet Tyson, "A Sense of the festive: Photographer captures home-grown Christmas Art," Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Section E, December 25, 1993, pp. 1, 4.
Collection donated by Christina Patoski, December 14, 1994.
Collection is open for research but is stored off-site and special arrangements must be made to work with it. Contact the Archives Center for information at email@example.com or 202-633-3270.
Christina Patoski retains copyright. Archives Center cost-recovery and use fees may apply when requesting reproductions.
Christianity and other religions -- Judaism -- Holiday decorations -- 1970-2000 Search this
Kaslov, Steve, ca. 1888-1949 (King of the Red Bandanna Romany Gypsies ) Search this
0.25 Cubic feet (4 boxes)
Virgin Islands -- 1930-1940
New York (N.Y.) -- 1930-1940
Bowery (New York, N.Y.) -- 1930-1940
Chinatown (New York, N.Y.) -- 1930-1940
St. Thomas (Virgin Islands) -- 1930-1940
1985 - 1986
1930 - 1943
Scope and Contents:
This collection contains 273 silver gelatin photoprints (Series 1), most of which apparently were made during the 1930s and early 1940s, contemporaneously with the original negatives. All are 8" x 10" or slightly smaller, unmounted except for flush mounted linen on the backs of some prints. The photographs were made primarily in two locations, New York City and the Virgin Islands. The Virgin Islands pictures were made as part of a special documentary project in 1939, as described above, whereas the New York photographs stem from Mr. Alland's largely self assigned documentation of various ethnic and religious groups in New York from approximately 1932 to 1943. The projects include photographs of the "Red Bandanna" Romany Gypsy group in the Bowery, a black Jewish congregation, Mohawk Indians in Brooklyn, and other groups, which required extensive exploration, research, and photographing over periods of many days or weeks. A variety of miscellaneous ethnic and religious groups are covered in the general "Other Religions" and "Nationalities" folders. The contents of the "Judaism" folder include primarily New York sites and people, but there are also additional views of a synagogue from the Virgin Islands project.
Series 2 of the collection contains four cassette tape recordings of two interviews with Mr. Alland, three made by Richard Ahlborn (with Eugene Ostroff and Matt Salo) in 1985, and one by David Haberstich and Richard Ahlborn, June 2-3, 1986 (at which time the photographs were donated). The tapes include readings from his autobiography, personal reminiscences on his experiences as an immigrant and a photographer, and commentary on the photographs.
The collection is arranged into two series.
Series 1: Photoprints, 1930-1943
Series 2: Audiotape Cassettes, 1985-1986
The photographs are arranged topically and by nationality.
Biographical / Historical:
Alexander Alland, Sr., was born in Sevastopol, Crimea (formerly in the Soviet Union) on 6 August 1902. His last name originally was Landschaft, but he legally changed it to Alland following the birth of his son. Alland's interest in photography began at the age of twelve, when he helped a local photographer with darkroom work. He constructed his own camera from cardboard with a simple meniscus lens and exposed glass plate negatives with the device.
Toward the end of the Civil War in Russia in 1920, Alland relocated in Constantinople, Turkey, where he was hired as an apprentice by a graduate of the Vienna Academy of Photography. When the Union Nationale des Combatants Francais went on a pilgrimage to Gallipoli, a former battle zone on the Dardanelles, he was asked to accompany them in order to document events. After having his request for a pay increase refused, he left his employer two years later and opened his own portrait studio, "Photo d'Art Russe." When civil unrest threatened Constantinople in 1923, he decided to emigrate to the United States.
During his first years in the United States he worked in photo finishing businesses while engaged in home portraiture independently. He married in 1929 and a son, Alexander, Jr., was born. In the 1930s he became one of the best known photographers portraying the life of immigrants and various ethnic groups in New York. (1) In 1936 he was appointed supervisor of the Photo Mural section of the W.P.A. Federal Art Project, and worked as a free lance photographer for magazines and periodicals featuring the activities of various ethnic groups living in New York City. He specialized in making photomurals with montage techniques. (2)
In 1937 Alland became photography instructor at the American Artists' School and joined the American Artists Congress. In 1939, his first book, Portrait of New York, was published and he became president of the "Exploration Photo Syndicate" and went to the U.S. Virgin Islands as part of a project to produce a pictorial record of the West Indian Islands. His photographs appeared in publications and were exhibited at the New School for Social Research and at the Schomberg Collection. In 1942 he joined the staff of Common Ground magazine as photography editor and was appointed by the National Youth Administration to supervise their photography workshop. His book American Counterpoint appeared in 1943 and was selected as "One of the Fifty Best Books of the Year." The original prints from that book were exhibited at the Museum of the City of New York, which also exhibited a portfolio of his work on American Gypsies. In 1944 he became director of an agency, "Pictures for Democracy," and in 1945 his book The Springfield Plan was proclaimed another "One of the Fifty Best Books of the Year."
During World War II Alland did technical photography for the War Department, receiving a commendation for this work. After another book My Dog Rinty was published, he left New York City to establish a school of photography, combined with a school of dance directed by his wife, Alexandra, a professional dancer and choreographer. (3) He then began to exhibit his own photographs and to collect glass plate negatives and vintage prints by significant photographers. He is perhaps best known for locating a collection of Jacob Riis negatives and making them available. In 1974 Aperture published his biography, Jacob A. Riis: Photographer and Citizen4. Because of his efforts in providing the Riis negatives to the Museum of the City of New York, that institution awarded a special commemorative medal to him in 1973. The Riis book was followed by two more studies of photographers, Jessie Tarbox Beals, First Woman News Photographer (5) and Heinrich Tonnies, Cartes de Visite Photographer Extraordinaire. (6)
Retrospective exhibitions of Alland's work were held in two major Danish museums in summer 1979 and he was honored for contributions to the cultural history of Denmark. In 1991 studies for his photomural work were included in an historical survey exhibition of American photomontage at the University of Maryland at College Park. (7).
1. My text is based upon the biographical information recorded on my taped interviews with Mr. Alland in this collection, but see also Bonnie Yochelson, The Committed Eye: Alexander Alland's Photography. New York: The Museum of the City of New York, Inc., 1991.
2. Merry A. Foresta, "Art and Document: Photography of the Works Progress Administration's Federal Art Project," in Official Images: New Deal Photography (essays by Foresta, Pete Daniel, Maren Stange, and Sally Stein), Washington: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1987, p. 153, based on an interview with Alland, January 1987.
3. Photographic historian Anne Peterson, contractor for three Archives Center photographic collection projects between 1986 and 1982, reports that she studied ballet as a child with Mrs. Alland.
7. See catalog by Cynthia Wayne, Dreams, Lies, and Exaggeration: Photomontage in America. The Art Gallery, University of Maryland at College Park, 1991 (exhibition at the gallery Oct. 21 Dec. 20, 1991).
Materials in the Archives Center
Carlos de Wendler Funaro Gypsy Research Collection (AC0161)
Contains additional Alland photographs. De Wendler Funaro also photographed Steve Kaslov, his family, and his Bowery coppersmith workshop.
Collection donated by Alexander Alland, June 3, 1986.
Collection is open for research.
Copyrighted material: photographs may not be reproduced without written permission from the Estate of Alexander Alland, Sr.
Synagogues -- Photographs -- 1930-1940 -- New York, N.Y. Search this
Newspapers -- Photographs -- 1930-1940 -- New York N.Y. Search this
Muslims -- Photographs -- 1930-1940 -- New York N.Y. Search this
Minorities -- Housing -- 1930-1940 -- New York (State) -- New York Search this
Minorities -- Housing -- 1930-1940 -- Virgin Islands Search this
Jewish life in art and tradition : from the collection of the Sir Isaac and Lady Edith Wolfson Museum, Hechal Shlomo, Jerusalem / commentary by Yehuda L. Bialer and Estelle Fink ; photography by David Harris