Ad Campaign – I. Miller Shoes, 1930s

I. Miller gives you summer shoes in color taken from the new flower prints.

On to the American Summer scene of glamorous clothes walk  I. Miller shoes in vibrant flower colors.  Nature’s hues selected with the I. Miller genius for color…for costume relationship. 1937

Israel Miller was the son of a Polish (some sources say Prussian) shoemaker who immigrated to the USA in the 1890s.  He obtained work as a cobbler with John Azzimonti,  an Italian immigrant who was making shoes for the theater.  According to an issue of the Boot and Shoe Recorder, actress Sarah Bernhardt once ordered 244 pairs of boots at one time.  When Azzimonti closed the shoe making business in 1909, his customers put in orders for up to thirty pairs.

They need not have worried about obtaining quality shoes, as Azzimonti’s former employee, Israel Miller was already making shoes and would establish I. Miller by 1911.  His operation was moved to a building near the corner of Broadway and 46th Street, which is in the theater district.  He was soon leasing the two brownstone buildings on the corner, and business was so good that in 1926 he bought both buildings and began renovations that would unify them into a single unit.

The resulting building is seen above,  but in 1926 the statues in the niches were not yet in place.  The next year it was announced that statues of four show women would be chosen to represent the arts of drama, comedy, opera, and movies.  The public was even invited to vote for their favorites, the winners being Ethel Barrymore, Marilyn Miller, Rosa Ponselle, and Mary Pickford.  The statues were made by A. Stirling Calder, the father of Alexander Calder of mobile fame.

Unfortunately Israel Miller did not live to see the unveiling of the completed building.  He died in Paris of a heart attack several months before the October, 1929 unveiling.


The Broadway side of the building was quite different from the elegant 46th Street facade.  There were pre-existing billboard leases on that side, and so even in the early days of the store, much of the Broadway facade was given over to advertising.  Today, the main entrance is on Broadway, as that is where most of the traffic is, but when this was a store store to the stars, they entered through 46th Street.

I. Miller shoes closed sometime in the 1970s and the building was bought in 1978 by Riese Restaurants, who ran a TGIFriday restaurant there for several decades.  By the late 1990s Riese was saying the store front would be restored, and though they applied for and were granted landmark status, nothing ever came of it.  Eventually the TGIFriday restaurant was closed, and the building taken over by the Express clothing company.

When I visited New York City in August, 2013, I went by to see the building and was dismayed to see it scaffolded over. In New York that could mean anything from restoration to a complete redoing of the building.  To their great credit, as Express readied the interior of the building  for retail, the exterior was renovated to its former glory.

The four statues had to be removed and restored as they were in terrible condition.  Chunks of marble on the building had to be repaired, the bronze was polished, and the entire facade was given a good cleaning.  Today it is one of the best reminders of what shopping in New York City was like in the early and mid 20th century.

When I first read of the shoe store several years ago it struck me as odd that there would be such an elegant store in a part of the city that was not (at that time, anyway) a shopping district.  A little reading about the subject informed me that this was only one of I. Miller’s stores.  The main store was located on Fifth Avenue, and there were two other New York City branches.  Nationwide there were 228 branch stores and several factories.

The mode for black is charmingly met in.. Monograin silk by I. Miller

As all femininity fares forth in Black, Monograin becomes the overwhelming fashion favorite for wear with the new autumn hats, gloves and handbags of this subtly-woven silk.  1930


Filed under Advertisements, Shoes, Shopping

15 responses to “Ad Campaign – I. Miller Shoes, 1930s

  1. I refuse to wear shoes that hurt my feet, but those colorful beauties from 1937 are works of art. The very high, narrow heels on the shoes from 1930 surprised me — in the sixties, very short skirts went with low or mid-heels — — not like today!
    Perhaps those very high I. Miller shoes may be part of the transition to long 1930’s skirts which began in 1929. Or were they worn with the very short skirts, too? I’ll keep my eye out for pictures.


  2. Lizzie…enjoyed your I.Miller article…made me realize what all I did NOT see last time I saw NY… however I was only 19 years old. guess i need to see it as an adult…you are a great tour guide. thanks…I remember I.Miller shoes.



  3. Christina

    The ground floor windows (pic 6) of the building are quite lovely. Interesting Calder connection.


  4. It seems like every week I hear about the closure (usually due to former tenant being unable to pay rent) of some place I used to go to in NYC, so it’s very nice to hear a story about a beautiful old building being restored for a change. That first I. Miller ad is a feast for the eyes!


  5. Such a wonderful story–I’ll look for this building next time I’m in New York. (And on a wonky historical note, Miller might have been born in a part of Prussia that later became Poland!)


    • Christina

      Poland was partitioned at that time. The Kingdom of Prussia Which became The German Empire acquired Polish territories. I have a Polish background.


    • One source said that he was born in Prussia near the Polish border. Due to the shifting border, it is very likely he was born in Prussian but was of Polish background. I’m assuming that Miller was an anglicized version of his name, but could not find proof of that.


      • Jewish, and there was no such nation of Poland when he was born. So born in Germany, Jewish, probably didn’t identify as either German/Prussian or Polish, but probably spoke both fluently, as well as Yiddish and then English. Nice to speak the language where you end up when you are getting away from the Cossacks, I’d think.

        Stumbled on his obituary but can’t find it. I think he died in Paris in 1929, and he left a lot of resources to Jewish charities.


  6. Love the I.Miller ad! That should be in your Collection!


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