S. S. Silver & Company Archive
Language of Materials
Photographs and some company documents from a Brooklyn-based interior design and store fixture company.
S. S. Silver & Company was formed in 1910 by Sol S. Silver (1885-1946). The company was located at 350-352 Butler Street in Brooklyn, and specialized in building and equipping commercial customers with new interior design displays. S. S. Silver & Company mainly dealt with businesses in the retail clothing trade, including specialty hat, shoe, and fabric stores as well as women's apparel. Among the other types of clientele served were restaurants, private residences, and business offices, primarily in Manhattan and Brooklyn.
Sol Silver died in 1946 while playing golf with his son, Bertram. Bertram S. Silver (1907-1999), who had been a vice-president in the company, subsequently became president of the firm. Under his leadership, S. S. Silver & Company began to expand the customer base, increasing both the geographical area and the size of the typical establishment served. Beginning in 1946, Silver & Co. won contracts to design the interiors for renovations at two major New York City department stores, Bergdorf Goodman and Saks Fifth Avenue. This led to further work designing displays and interiors for Saks Fifth Avenue's new stores in Beverly Hills, Chicago, and Detroit. The non-New York work attracted midwestern clients for Silver & Co., primarily larger department stores in Kansas City, Chicago, and Colorado Springs. Silver & Co. continued to be involved in smaller New York City-based store and office buildings and renovations.
Bertram Silver sought to raise the company's public profile by emphasizing publicity, writing many articles for trade publications, and advertising in the New York Times, among other periodicals. He emphasized a no-nonsense approach to retail design, one guaranteed to please his clients. In "Novelty Isn't Everything - Don't Overlook Prosaic," an article Silver wrote in June 1948 for Women's Wear Daily, he suggested that "â?¦ some of the more prosaic design elements, such as locking devices for fixtures, or thoughtfully-planned fitting rooms still can save headaches and make the difference in sales." Letters from satisfied clients (found in Series III) attest to their satisfaction with Silver & Co.'s design work.
In 1954, Bertram Silver moved from his West End Avenue apartment to a 65-acre estate in Newtown, Connecticut. S. S. Silver & Company was dissolved in 1960-1961. In 1968 Silver was named President and General Manager of the Lehigh and Leopold Division of Litton Industries.
- Series I. Commercial Interiors
- Series II. Residences
- Series III. Company Records
- Series IV. Publicity Scrapbooks
Scope and Content Note
The S. S. Silver & Company Archive spans the period from 1922 to 1957, with most photographs dating from 1946 to 1956, when the company was led by Bertram S. Silver. The collection primarily contains photographs documenting the company's interior design work for retail companies. Photographs highlight the custom fixtures and office furniture, as well as the use of new technology (innovative lighting techniques, plexiglass partitions) that were the firm's strengths. Major photographers included are Joseph Molitor (1907-1996), an architectural photographer, and Ben Schnell, another photographer of interiors. The collection is divided into four series: Commercial Interiors; Residences; Company Records; and Publicity.
The majority of the collection consists of 8 x 10 inch photographs, generally black and white with some color, which are mounted on paper board. These were originally housed in thirty-nine numbered black binders, probably for publicity or archival purposes. However, photographs of the same store were not necessarily filed in the same binder, making it difficult to view all photos of one store at the same time. As the binders were not found to correspond to a chronological or other discernable order, the pages were disbound and filed alphabetically by store for ease of retrieval. Each page has been labeled on the verso with the original binder number and page number; a list of this original order also follows this finding aid. Three of the company's original binders have been saved and are housed at the end of the collection.
The collection also includes a folder of correspondence from satisfied clients, two scrapbooks of clippings and publicity material, and some early consultant reports on the company's structure and workflow. These materials document the inner workings and history of a commercial display and interior design firm.
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This collection should be cited as S. S. Silver & Company Archive, PR 061, Department of Prints, Photographs, and Architectural Collections, The New-York Historical Society.
Location of Materials
Gift of Bertram S. Silver, 1982.