Obituary: Herman Miller 1908-2002

by Ute Wartenberg Kagan

Herman Miller, one of the most active members of the ANS community, passed away on October 15th of last year, at the age of 94. As a real estate manager and owner, Herman Miller was very keen on an ANS move to the downtown area, where he owned a few buildings himself. Born on March 1908 in New York City to Lithuanian immigrants Meyer Miller and Rose Moskowitz Miller, he spent most of his life in Yorkville in Manhattan around the Upper East Side. After finishing the New York City High School of Commerce in 1925, he earned a BCS in Business Administration from New York University in 1931. Already as a young teenager, Miller gained valuable work experience in his parents’ paint store on Second Avenue. In his 20s, he set up a successful painting contracting and contractor supply business. As a young man, he ran the New York Paint Dealers Association, which he headed as President in the 1930s.

For over 60 years with his brother Benjamin, Herman Miller headed a successful real estate business under the name of Urban Management Inc. They acquired dozens of commercial and residential buildings in Manhattan and the metropolitan area, among them some well-known New York landmarks. Although most of them were sold in the 1980s, Herman Miller attended to his various businesses until recently. He regularly would go downtown where his office was located. It was his knowledge of the downtown contracting business that was of great help to the ANS when the new building at 140 William Street was first acquired. Herman Miller would personally assist with advice on plumbing or roofing problems when needed.

Herman Miller was a dedicated family man. In 1938, he married Frieda L. Schwartz. The couple had a devoted and close-knit relationship until her death in 1996 and also had two children, Barbara Tancil and Myron Miller. Miller was a devoted grandfather to his five grandchildren and to the wider family clan. An important concern was the educational and professional growth of his children and grandchildren, to which he devoted much time and effort.

As a collector, Herman Miller had an astonishingly broad range of interest, which was not known to many of his fellow-coin collectors. He had an impressive collection of Greek and Roman coins and Renaissance medals, a small part of which ended in the ANS collection. His enthusiasm for collecting went into many different areas, which extended over the years. Watches, clocks, and mechanical instruments, in particular those made in England in the 18th and 19th centuries, were a hobby. He intensively collected and studied medieval illuminated manuscripts as well as Etruscan art and culture.

In his last years of his life, Herman Miller regularly attended meetings at the ANS and the New York Numismatic Club, of which he was a loyal member. Regular outings also included the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which he visited the week before his death. His curiosity in objects and history was quite intense, and although he was not actively collecting at the end of his life, his knowledge of New York buildings or coins was always of interest to others. An ANS Fellow and Patron of the Society, Herman Miller will be much missed by the staff and members of the ANS.