Sunday, July 19, 2015

Found!...The NYC I. Miller Building

Copyright © Françoise Herrmann          
Right at Times Square in NYC, on the corner of Broadway and 46th Street, stands the I. Miller Building, completely restored on the outside, and remodeled on the inside, by the Express Inc., fashion apparel company, which acquired the historical landmark building in 2012. 

The architect Louis H. Freeland was originally commissioned in 1926 to remodel the brownstone structure at the corner of 46th and Broadway into the stunning limestone, marble and bronze headquarters of the I. Miller empire. In 1911, the shoemaker Israel Miller had set up shop at Nos. 1552-4 Broadway, and in 1926 the Polish immigrant was one of the most famous shoemakers and importers of shoes in the US, with 4 stores in Manhattan, 1 in Brooklyn and a total of 16 stores nationwide.  I. Miller originally designed shoes for the entertainment business, and his success was largely due to the actresses and actors for whom he first designed beautiful costume shoes. 

Ties to the entertainment business explain why it is written in stone, on the 46th street façade of the building: “ I. Miller Building - The show folks shoe store dedicated to beauty in footware”. And this is also the reason why the recesses on each side of the 5 upstairs windows display full-length marble art deco statues of the most popular actresses of the time. The location at Times Square also remains as a central district for NYC theaters and entertainment.

To determine which celebrated actresses would represent the entertainment industry, I. Miller organized a contest, the results of which were published in Sept. 6, 1927 issue of the The NYTimes. The four winners represented four different areas of entertainment: Ethel Barrymore was selected to represent the drama, Marilyn Miller to represent musical comedy, Rosa Ponselle to represent opera and Mary Pickford to represent motion pictures.

I. Miller Building - Marble statues of Mary Pickford as Little Lord Fauntleroy and Marilyn Miller as Sunny 

The Philadelphia sculptor Alexander Sterling Calder (father of Alexander Calder, the famous modern art, mobile sculptor) was commissioned for the sculptures of the actresses, each representing an entertainment branch. Calder chose to depict Ethel Barrymore (Drew Barymore's great-aunt!) in the role Ophelia in Shakespeare’s Hamlet ; Mary Pickford (also producer and founder of United Artists) in the role of Cedric in Frances Hodgson Burnett’s children novel Little Lord Fauntleroy; Marilyn Miller in the role of Sunny the circus queen in the Broadway musical Sunny with music by Jerome Kern, lyrics and book by Oscar Hammerstein II and Otto Harbach; and Rosa Ponselle as Leonora in the Verdi’s opera La forza del destino.

The I. Miller building was inaugurated in front of a crowd of 3000 on Oct. 20, 1929, a few months after Israel Miller died in Paris (France).

The building façade withstood a devastating fire on Jan 31, 1959 when the building housed a Howard Johnson Restaurant. The billboards of the Broadway façade were reported to have prevented access for the fire to be extinguished.   

The building was awarded a historical landmark designation in 1999.
In June 2015, as flagship store for Express fashion, the façade appeared as beautiful as ever on 46th street, and the inside rocks!!!
I. Miller Building Express flagship store - June 2015 

Photos – All mine.
Gray, Ch. (Feb. 10, 2008) A little Jewel box of a shoe store – Broadway and 46th The New York Times – Feb. 10, 2008
The 1929 Miller Building – No. 1552-4 Broadway
“The Show Folks Shoe Shop Dedicated to Beauty in Footwear”
I. Miller, shoe manufacturer, dies (Aug. 15, 1929) Jewish Telegraphic Agency
I. Miller & Sons
Alexander Sterling Calder (Sculptor – father)
Alexander Calder (Modern artist and sculptor son)
Ethel Barrymore (Theatre)
Hamlet (Shakespeare)
Mary Pickford (Motion Pictures)
Little Lord Fauntleroy (novel by Frances Hodgson Burnett)
Frances Eliza Hodgson Burnett
Marilyn Miller (Musical)
Sunny (musical )
Rosa Ponselle (Opera)
La forza del destino (opera – Guiseppe Verdi)
NAME STAGE FAVORITES -  I. Miller Concern's Patrons Hold Popularity Contest – NY Times Sept. 6, 1927. [$3.95 pdf access fee] 

Friday, July 17, 2015

Oh patents! The 21st century Peugeot pepper mill

Copyright © Françoise Herrmann

Many, though not all of the 21st century condiment, salt and pepper mills look and work exactly like the original 1878  Peugeot patented  improvement on pepper mills,  that is, without a crank handle, using an integrated spindle with a cross-bar and nut, which is battery or manually operated.  And, most importantly, the condiment mills that spice our fare stand vertical and perpendicular to a tabletop.

In the tradition of the 1878 patented Peugeot peppermill improvement, a new Peugeot peppermill patent was granted in 2014, and this pepper mill lies horizontal and parallel to the tabletop! Indeed, almost 150 years after the original 1878 patent, Peugeot, having merged with Citroen (and acquired Chrysler!), the company now called Peugeot Citroen Automobiles, S.A.  applied for the French patent FR2995514 titled Condiment Mill.

FR2995514, the 21st century Peugeot patent, addresses two issues in condiment dispensing:  the grinds that spill and soil a countertop after grinding, and control over the amount of condiment dispensed from the mill.  Indeed, when grinding pepper or other condiments with a vertical mill, there is really no way to control the amount of the condiments dispensed. Even with a small built-in light that is included in many battery-operated mills, designed both to illuminate the area that is sprinkled and to provide some feedback on the amount of the output, it is impossible to measure the amount dispensed, for example in ¼ teaspoons. 

So the new 21st century Peugeot mill dispenses pepper horizontally on an attached spoon-like receptacle or extension, enabling users to then sprinkle and control the amount of pepper or other condiments dispensed, ounce ground.

In another aspect of the 21st century Peugeot invention, the horizontal design also specifically addresses the issue of spilt grinds soiling a counter top, since all of the grinds are captured onto the receptacle (spoon-like) extension.

1878 upside down embodiment
The horizontal take on spilt grinds actually also comes as an alternative solution to the one designed 150 years earlier.  Indeed, the 1878 Peugeot solution to spilt grinds then consisted in provisions for the mill to be designed with the grinder on the top of the mill. Thus, when the pepper mill was designed with the spindle-crossbar and nut mechanism on the bottom of the mill, and the grinder on the top, it was provided in the 19th century patent that one embodiment of the1878 improved peppermill would be stored vertically on its head, and flipped upside down when used, thus resolving the issue of spilt grinds, as shown just above in the1878 figure drawing.  A solution, which is, in  fact and incidentally, retained in 21st century electric Trudeau pepper mills, for example!

Below, you will find included the English Abstract for FR2995514,  the 21st century Peugeot Citroen Automobile S.A.  patent, titled Condiment Mill, as well as one of the patent figure drawings, and an image of the manufactured horizontal product marketed by the Peugeot Design Lab.  

The assembly has a grain tank and an electric crushing mechanism (2) placed in a hollow tubular body (1). A receptacle (5) is located in an extension of the tubular body for collection of grinds. A condiment mill rests on a base (6) in a lying position. The receptacle is obtained by a scalp of the tubular body. The condiment mill comprises a wheel (3) for controlling the crushing mechanism that closes the grain tank at an end, which is opposite to that of an exit surface of the crushing mechanism. The mill is provided with a cap carrying a control button. [Abstract FR2995514]

2014 horizontal condiment mill embodiment

Pepper anyone?
Condiment Mill - Applicant Peugeot Citroen Automobiles SA, inventor Damien Deberdt
FR2995514 granted 2 – 21 – 2014 (horizontal pepper mill)

Peugeot Mills and Grinders

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Oh, patents! A perfect wedding gift…

Copyright © Françoise Herrmann

Which belated wedding gift for a pair of 30-something lovebird design-professionals, nesting in NYC’s village…?

How about a pair of electric Peugeot Citroen Pepper and Salt Mills!  Yes, patented and manufactured by Peugeot Citroen Automobile SA, the famous French car manufacturer with the lion coat of arms -- second largest car manufacturer of Europe, and also boasting 200 years of design experience in pepper mills and coffee grinders!

The original Peugeot pepper grinder dates back to the end of the 19th century!  According to US 210837 A, titled Improvement in combined pepper mill and caster, corresponding to the French Letters Patent No. 210837, granted on Dec. 17, 1878, the original Peugeot pepper mill was designed as an improvement on existing pepper mills operated with a small crank handle  rotating the grinding cone. The inventor was Pierre Chalas, who assigned his invention to Peugeot Frères, all residing in Valentigney, France, known as the birthplace of the Peugeot company in 19th century France.

The patented improvement of the pepper mill consisted in connecting the grinding cone to the body of the pepper mill, with a spindle, crossbar and nut, on the top, or bottom, of the mill (depending on the configuration), so that instead of cranking the mill, with a crank handle, to grind the pepper (which is not the easiest manipulation).  the user just needs to twist the top, or the bottom of the mill, to actuate the grinding cone.

To date, this inventive improvement in the operation of the grinding mechanism still informs the design of Peugeot pepper, salt and condiment mills (as well as many replicas). Some of the mills today are also still made of wood, others are lacquered or made of plastic and other materials, just as envisioned in the specifications of variation, cited as “glass, wood, porcelain or other suitable material” in the original 1878 patent.

A century plus more later, the Peugeot spindle is sometimes electrically driven, which makes it even easier to grind pepper, salt and other condiments, in the spirit of the 1878 inventive improvement in user-friendliness. 

Incidentally too, the Peugeot pepper mill invention serves as a fantastic example of an improvement counting as an invention -- despite the apparent contradiction of terms. That is, an improvement that has successfully passed all three criteria of patentability, namely  novelty, inventive step and usefulness.

Below, you will see two of the original 1878 patent drawings for the Letters Patent No. 210837, granting a patent to P. Chalas, on Dec. 17, 1878, Assignor to Peugeot Frères.

With a lifetime warranty on the grinding mechanism, the Peugeot salt and pepper mills could drive the salt and pepper in all the happy couple’s recipes… Truly a perfect gift to accompany a beautiful lifetime of sprinkles and happiness! Xox

Improvement in combined pepper mill and caster
US 210837 A – Letter Patent No. 210837 granted Dec. 17, 1878 to Pierre CHALAS (Valentigney France) and assigned to Peugeot Frères (of same place) – Original of Peugeot manufacturer
Peugeot Mills and Grinders

Monday, July 13, 2015

Self-portrait of a blogger...!

Copyrght © Françoise Herrmann

By now you are probably really curious... about the Spider and the shipwreck...  So... here she is... the Blogger blogging Patents on the soles your shoes... teaching patents translation... hoping you are all enjoying the show as much as I...

Françoise Herrmann - June 2015 - NYC MOMA

At the NYC MOMA on the third floor... where this summer 2015 I. Miller and Sons extravaganza all began!

xox dear readers...

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Oh, patents! The I. Miller and Sons shoes (3)

Copyright © Françoise Herrmann

The Canadian patent CA270663 titled Shoe shank is another I. Miller and Sons patent addressing shoe and boot comfort.

You are probably wondering what a shoe shank (cambrion or cambrillon in French) could possibly be!  The shoe shank refers to the section of the sole at the instep and in particular to the rigid piece inserted at the level of the instep, beneath the insole of a shoe or boot sole. This rigid piece or shoe shank is designed to prevent excessive flexibility of the instep. Thus, it is generally designed to stiffen the shoe or boot, and to support the foot’s arch.

The I. Miller and Sons patented shoe shank presents certain innovative properties, in particular, the capacity to yield a bit while providing the necessary rigidity to the shank. The yielding of this shoe shank is designed to better accommodate the way the bone structure of both arch and heel move during walking, and thus to provide more comfort to wearers when walking or standing.

To achieve the novel combination of rigidity and movement, designed for greater comfort, the invention discloses a device comprising two strips or plates with “slideably overlapping” U-shaped extensions, positioned end-to-end, and further equipped with means to prevent lateral movement. Thus, under pressure the two extension parts slide, without shifting laterally, providing more resiliency to the sliding extensions than to the rest of the strips. The result is a shoe or boot that yields to the wearer’s foot when moving, and greater comfort as the shank is thus more consistently designed according to the bone structure and dynamics of the wearer’s instep.

Below, two figure drawings, extracted from CA270663 titled “Shoe shank”, are included. Figure 1  shows the two parts of the shoe shank slidably connected, while Figure 2 shows both parts unassembled. 

  Although it is impossible to see the shoe shank, that is, this particular patented and anatomic comfort feature of the I. Miller and Sons shoes, another fabulous Andy Warhol shoe perdu is also included below!  

Andy Warhol - Shoe bright, shoe light, first shoe I've seen tonight
What is perhaps becoming clearer is why the I. Miller and Sons shoes were so successful! Looking back, it appears that Andy Warhol captured their known beauty and that the patents disclosed the innovative manufacturing attention to functionality.... and comfort! What a winning shoe combo!

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Oh, patents! Shoe terminology....

Copyright © Françoise Herrmann

There are more than a few technical terms in the I. Miller and Sons shoe patents. The "last" and "lasting" shoes (with no pun intended), the vamp, the throat and the tongue of the shoe... 

Below, a  small bilingual shoe-parts picture glossary is included for your information, and for the clarity, accuracy  and general elegance of your expression…!

And while we are talking shoe parts, we may as well talk shoe types… so you will also find a small bilingual glossary of shoes types… to French...and from French, too.  You know… your loafers, Mary Janes, slides and beloved Crocs™ ...!

loafers, slip-ons
mocassins (m. pl.), loafers (, flaneurs (m. pl.)
babies (f. pl) , baby (f.s.)
sabots (m. pl)
Crocs™ (m. pl)
escarpins (m. pl.)
ballerines (f. pl)
baskets (m. pl.)
richelieu(s) (m. s(pl.).)
Derby (m. s.)
mocs (mocassins – Native American with fringes)
Keds™ (
(thong) flip flops
tongs (m. pl)
chaussons (m. pl)
pantouffles (f. pl)
thigh boot
cuissardes (f. pl)
knee boot
bottes (f. pl)
ankle boots
bottines (f. pl) pour femmes, botillons ( pour hommes, boots ( pour hommes et femmes)
bottes en caoutchouc (f. pl)
(chaussures, bottes, sandales) à semelles compensées (f. pl. adj.)
espadrilles (canvas & rope-soled shoes)
espadrilles (f. pl)
nu-pieds (m. pl.)
(shower) slides
claquettes de piscine (f. pl.)
heavy duty lace-up boot  (hiking or work)
brodequin (m.s.)
t-bar sandal, cross-toe sandal, school sandal (by Start Rite in UK, and Sonnet un US)
salomé (f.s.)
chaussures à bout pointu ou pointues (f. pl)
Charentais (bedroom, carpet, house) slipper
charentaises (
deck shoes
bateaux (m. pl.) – Lexique chaussures
Dupré, C. (1982) Vocabulaire de la chaussusre – Teminologie technique et industrielle – Cahiers de l’Office de la language française - Office Québécois
Herrmann, F (2013) Wow patents! Crocs!
Lexique de la chaussure – Jacques et Déméter
Wikipedia - Derby shoe 
Wikipedia - Winklepicker
Wikipedia - T-bar sandal
Wikipedia - Mary Jane (shoe)
Wikipedia - Oxford shoe
Wikipedia - Derby shoe

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Oh, patents! I. Miller & Sons shoes (2)

Copyright © Françoise Herrmann

US1807792 titled Shoe is another I. Miller and Sons patent that addresses both issues of comfort and related manufacturing. 

This invention also specifically targets the shoe upper and comfort at the in-step, when there is a strap that risks cutting the wearer’s foot if it is too tight. To address this problem the invention cleverly provides for a strap to extend all the way around the back edge of the shoe, in a tunnel formed between the lining and outer edge of the shoe, so as to distribute tension evenly around, instead of at the two points where the straps  are usually attached. 

Additionally, the invention discloses that part of the strap may be manufactured of an elastic material so that the strap can “yieldably tension” and further adapt to the foot’s movement. And finally, the invention provides for the strap to be easily removed and replaced, as it slides through the tunnel opening around the shoe, thus providing an additional ornamental aspect, since it can be changed to match an outfit.

The two patent drawings extracted from US1807792 titled Shoe are included below, showing the movable and tension distributing strap in both Figures, and further attached  in Figure 2 to the forefront or "vamp" of the shoe.

... as well as the image of beautiful I. Miller and Sons evening shoes displaying this sort of tension distribution of the strap.

However…none of this would be complete without a matching “shoe perdu”*, also included!

Andy Warhol - Dial M for shoe...

*Just as a reminder, the shoe(s) perdu(s) are Andy Warhol’s drawings commissioned by I. Miller and Sons, as advertisements for the company. Warhol's drawings appeared each week in the New York Times... and they are now (in June 2015) on display on the third floor of the NYC MOMA.