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Knifemaker's Shop Sign

Knifemaker's Shop Sign

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Traditional American shop signs often incorporated objects made or sold by the shopkeepers, both to promote the wares and to help language-challenged customers understand what the shops offer. 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.
This sign, together with knife catalogs and customer correspondence to the Millers from shochets, mohels, and rabbis from around the world, are 1992 gifts of Irene Galdston, daughter of Joseph Miller. The actual knifemaking tools used in the Miller shop are also in the Museum's collections.
Currently not on view
Object Name
shop owner
Miller, David
Miller, Joseph
Physical Description
wood (overall material)
metal (overall material)
cloth (overall material)
paint (overall material)
overall: 49 cm x 64 cm x 9 cm; 19 5/16 in x 25 3/16 in x 3 9/16 in
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
Credit Line
Irene V. Galdston
See more items in
Work and Industry: Occupations
Data Source
National Museum of American History
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My grandmother, Fannie Miller Brinberg, was the sister of Joseph and David Miller. I have memories of my childhood visits to Uncle Joe’s home and shop in the 50s located in the West Farms section of the Bronx. For a wedding gift to me and my wife he made us a knife with our wedding announcement in the handle.

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