There are a few names in the history of footwear that conjure up instant praise and awe. You may know a few – Pietro Yantorny, Roger Vivier, and I. Miller.
Differing from the first two, who were both couture footwear designers commanding the highest price for the most exclusive shoes, I. Miller designed and made shoes for performers, movie stars, but also the general public.
Sources vary concerning Israel Miller’s origin. He immigrated to the U.S. from Prussia in the late 1880s/early 1890s, with prior experience as a cutter and designer in Paris. In New York he worked with John Azzimonti, the leading maker of footwear for the stage, then eventually set up his own company in 1895. Business boomed and I.Miller & Sons was soon dressing the feet of Broadway dancers, opera singers, silent film stars, and socialites with their glamorous and trend-setting heels.
Throughout the first three decades of the 20th century, I.Miller grew to 228 stores across the country, the flagship store being the famous I’Miller building in New York City, decorated with the enduring images of Ethel Barrymore, Marilyn Miller, Mary Pickford, and Rosa Ponselle, four of Miller’s illustrious film clients.
I.Miller shoes were also carried in prominent shoe stores like Frank Werner Co. in San Francisco. Shoes found in these stores were stamped “I.Miller & Sons” on one insole, with the name of the shoe store and city on the other.
I find I’Miller shoes fascinating because I keep acquiring them, quite by accident. The I.Miller & Sons foil stamp on the insole is now a familiar sight accompanied by a warm feeling and connection with the past. Like I.Miller, American Duchess makes shoes for theater, opera, and film performers, and often in the same styles!
Two of my favorites came from two different friends, quite unrelated. One pair has the I.Miller stamp on the inside, was sold by Frank Werner Co. in San Francisco, and came out of a theater costume room. The second pair has no mark, so how do I know they’re I.Miller as well? Because the fabric is the very same pattern, and the last and heel shapes match! These two styles were made around the same time in the late 1920s/early 1930s, and somehow survived in pretty good condition, and have now arrived in the same collection. It boggles my mind!
The latest pair is older than the two metallic brocade shoes. These came to me from a local store that had been using them in a shop display. I didn’t know they were I.Miller when I convinced the shop owner to sell them to me, but was extra pleased to see that gilt stamp on the insole, along with a quality inspection stamp with the date 9-24-2? (the last digit is faded away). With the shape of the toe, last, and French heel, these shoes are early 20s, and belonged to who knows! A performer, a singer, a starlet, a bride?
Israel Miller died in August 1929, just three years after his famous New York flagship store was opened. He had grown the company to be one of the most successful shoe manufactories in U.S. history. The company continued after Israel Miller’s death, revitalizing its brand in the 1950s with the help of commercial illustrator Andy Warhol. The brand eventually ceased in the 1970s.
Maybe we’ll last for 75 years too. 🙂
Gabriela SalvadorMarch 13, 2015 at 1:47 AM
I've walked past the I.Miller building! It's in Times Square. I think they restored the building a few years ago, which is nice, except now the building is supporting a COLOSSAL electronic billboard!
AlynApril 21, 2016 at 10:24 AM
Hi, I bought a pair of shoes I. Miller in in 1992,It was "sold" from $168.00 down to $85.00 still have them and still intact.
UnknownDecember 26, 2016 at 11:34 PM
My mother worked at an I. miller factory, in Wilkes Barre, PA, in the '40s. She lied sbout her age, and said she was sixteen, in order to be hired. (She was fifteen) At that time, her factory made the shoes for Kate Smith, of God Bless America fame. It was tough, physical work, and my mother said she was never so happy as when he boss let her know that she was being fired, as she couldnt keep up the same pace as the other ladies.
karenOctober 10, 2017 at 3:50 AM
my dad worked thru the war for I miller and Sons in Long Island City New York… 18 years with the company!
Nancy CohenJune 30, 2018 at 2:11 PM
I MILLER was my great grandfather. It’s nic to read about his history and the history of his shoes. It pleases me that people have an interest in his legacy. Thank you!
UnknownMarch 27, 2019 at 3:40 PM
Are you then Sara Miller's cousin? She and I discovered our connection as my grandmother was the Shop Stewart at the LIC factory.
UnknownMay 25, 2019 at 4:12 PM
Hello Nancy Cohan, How exciting to come a cross a message from you. I purchased a fabulous pair of your great grandfathers boot at a vintage shop in England yesterday. I researched his name on arriving home and I am interested. The history of the man, New York and on to Andy Warhol. Its inspired me to try trace the life of the boots. They have numbers stamped on the inside and a hand written code, perhaps an order number that I'm hoping could lead to a name, maybe a theater name. They are an early creation. I'v emailed the NY Met museum for help with a starting point.🤞 Yours Sincerely Isabella C.
Flori S.June 9, 2021 at 9:49 AM
I am the archivist for I Miller & all its Brands, located in NY. WE hold over 100 yers of I Miller history,represented in shoes & ephemera.
The numbers yo reference are production control numbers that usually record the factory that made the shoes, the lot or order number, & of course the size & width.
I am sorry to say that there are no remaining records that correlate to the numbers stamped or handwritten in your shoes/boots.
Although I. Miller was the “Shoemaker to the Stars”, not all of his customers were famous. Your boots from the 1900’s are from very early on in I. Miller history. They were made by hand in NY. They may not have belonged to someone famous, but they are still special & wonderful, Im sure. Does the label say I. Miller or I Miller & sons?
Marian E. BudaMarch 15, 2023 at 1:00 PM
Both my husband’s grandfathers worked for I. Miller in the 1930s in NYC (or possibly Long Island). I have two photos of them on the factory floor and one on the roof of the building. If you are interested, I could email them to you. One grandfather, George Buda, worked so quickly that his co-workers would complain that he was showing them up, so he would work at his own pace, but if a supervisor came around, he had a half-finished show ready to put out to show that he was working at the proper pace. He made shoes for Mae West, among others.
American DuchessMarch 16, 2023 at 9:48 PM
That’s a great story! You have shoemaking talent in your blood, then!
UnknownMay 25, 2019 at 8:27 PM
Hello, How would I go about tracing the life of my early, maybe 1900ish, I.Miller boots. They are fabulously made and I would love to know if I could trace them back to the person who had them made. They have numbers stamped and hand written reference codes on the inside. Having researched Israel Miller and the history surrounding his customers, I'm excited at the thought of learn more. I would be very grateful if anyone had advice on where to start. Thank you. Isabella.
UnknownJanuary 3, 2020 at 8:58 PM
I just bought the most beautiful Victorian Shoes I Miller beautiful Shoes Made in New York
UnknownJune 24, 2020 at 11:30 PM
When I went off to college in St. Louis in 1956 my mother bought me the most beautiful pair of black velvet I Miller pumps. I wish I had kept them. They were works of art
UnknownFebruary 1, 2021 at 10:52 PM
I live in I. Miller's house in Long Beach, and have an album I have put together about your grandfather. I would love to touch base with you at some point… my email: [email protected].
Amy MiskiminsJuly 7, 2022 at 7:37 PM
I just bought a pair of I. Miller shoes at a thrift store and I’m having a hard time finding any history on them. They are black linen pumps with embroidered flowers around the toe. The name “I. Miller” is written in cursive on the insole which is throwing me off because I’ve only seen the round stamp and block letters. Any info would be appreciated! Thank you!
MelissaJuly 19, 2022 at 11:18 AM
Owner of I. Miller last residence in Long Beach, NY. Would like any additional information for the album I have created about our home.