Guide to the Papers of Milton Weill (1891-1975)
undated, 1917–1954

P-34

Processed by Paulette Schneider

American Jewish Historical Society

Center for Jewish History

15 West 16th Street

New York, N.Y. 10011

Phone: (212) 294-6160

Fax: (212) 294-6161

Email: reference@ajhs.org

URL: http://www.ajhs.org

© 2014, American Jewish Historical Society, Boston, MA and New York, NY. All Rights Reserved.
Machine-readable finding aid was created by Paulette Schneider as a MS-Word document in April 2004. Electronic finding aid was converted to EAD 2002 by Tanya Elder in March 2005. Description is in English.

Descriptive Summary

Creator: Milton Weill (1891-1975)
Title: Milton Weill Papers
Dates:undated, 1917-1954
Abstract: Milton Weill was known for his work in philanthropic Jewish organizations. Among the many presidential, vice-presidential, and board member positions he held, he was President of the Federation of Jewish Philanthropies (1951-1954), Vice-President of the National Jewish Welfare Board, and a board member of the United Jewish Appeal and the American Jewish Committee. He was also the Director of the United Services Organizations, Overseer of Brandeis University's Graduate School of Social Welfare and Honorary Vice President and board member of the 92nd Street Y in New York. Prior to the 92nd Street Y, he was a board member of the 92nd Street Young Men's and Young Women's Hebrew Association and was Honorary Chairman of the Board of Associated Young Men's and Young Women's Hebrew Assocations of New York. The Milton J. Weill Art Gallery is located at the 92nd Street Y. Mr. Weill graduated from Columbia University and served in France during World War I. The papers include correspondence, telegrams, postcards, maps, artifacts, posters, photographs, lectures, sketch typescripts, and scrapbooks from World War I, his tenure at the Jewish Welfare Board, and personal correspondence.
Languages: The collection is in English, French, one item in Yiddish and one item in Hebrew.
Quantity: 2.5 linear feet and 3 MAP folders (2 manuscript boxes, 1 oversized box and 3 MAP folders.)
Accession number: P-34
Repository: American Jewish Historical Society
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Biographical Note
Portrait of of Milton Weill, circa 1918

Milton Weill, circa 1918

Milton Weill (1891-1975)

Milton Weill was born in New York City on October 21, 1891. He attended DeWitt Clinton High School and then Columbia University, graduating in 1913.

He was drafted into the US Army in 1917. Following training at Camp Upton (Yaphank, NY), he was promoted to Sergeant and finally to Second Lieutenant in the 129th Infantry during World War I. He fought at Argonne-Meuse (France) and was temporarily blinded after inhaling mustard gas on October 8, 1918. After a brief hospital stay in France, he returned to America on February 25, 1919. He was discharged from the service on March 18, 1919 and was awarded the Purple Heart.

On March 25, 1922, he married Teresa Jackson. The couple lived on the Upper East Side of New York City and were involved in congregational activities at Park Avenue Synagogue, where Milton Weill became a trustee.

From 1915 to 1920, Weill was a partner in the Weil, Biow, Weill, a New York advertising agency. He then became Vice President and later Chairman of the Board at Arrow Manufacturing Company (West New York, NJ), a producer of music boxes, where he remained from 1920 to 1960.

Weill was best known for his work in Jewish organizations. From 1951 to 1954, he was President of the Federation of Jewish Philanthropies. During his tenure, he managed a $50 million building program that yielded Long Island Jewish Hospital, the Henry Ittleson Center for Child Research, and the Henry Kaufman Campgrounds in Pearl River, NY. He became Vice President of the National Jewish Welfare Board, a board member of the United Jewish Appeal, a Governor of the American Jewish Committee, Vice President of the Greater New York Fund, a Director of United Services Organizations, Overseer of Brandeis University Graduate School of Social Welfare, Honorary Vice President and board member of New York’s 92nd Street Y (then the 92nd Street Young Men’s and Young Women’s Hebrew Association), and Honorary Chairman of the Board of Associated Young Men’s and Young Women’s Hebrew Associations of New York. The Emanuel Midtown Y on East 14th Street named its building the Milton Weill Building when it was first constructed, and the 92nd Street Y created the Milton J. Weill Art Gallery adjacent to its Kaufman Concert Hall.

Milton Weill died in on October 2, 1975 at the age of 84. At that point he resided in Sarasota, FL.

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Scope and Content Note

This collection of Milton Weill Papers contains several distinct groups of material: personal correspondence and keepsakes from Weill’s years as World War I soldier; business correspondence and speeches in his capacity as Vice President of the National Jewish Welfare Board; correspondence with, and items relating to, Weill’s friend Rabbi Milton Steinberg of Park Avenue Synagogue; a number of unsigned, undated dramatic sketches; and a scrapbook containing World War I memorabilia.

Subjects in the collection includes Jewish soldiers in France in World War I, Camp Upton in Long Island, Irving Berlin, Eddie Cantor, Harpo Marx, theatre performed by soldiers, dramatic sketches, the National Jewish Welfare Board between 1941-1946, Rabbi Milton Steinberg of the Park Avenue Synagogue, conditions for Jews living in Latin American countries in 1946, anti-Semitism in the 1940s, interfaith relations in the 1940s, army chaplains in World War II, and scrapbooks.

A related item held by the archive of the 92nd Street Y’s Buttenweiser Library is a scrapbook covering Weill’s life through the start of his World War I experience. Although this scrapbook seems to flow directly into the later one in our collection, it seems comfortably suited to its 92nd Street Y location because of Weill’s close association with that institution. A description of the scrapbook is available in an addendum.

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Arrangement

The collection is arranged into five series.

For a description of a Scrapbook concerning Weill's younger years, located at the Buttenweiser Library, 92nd Street Y archives please see the addendum.

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Access and Use

Access Restrictions

The collection is open to all researchers by permission of the Director of Library and Archives of the American Jewish Historical Society, except items that are restricted due to their fragility.

Use Restrictions

There may be some restrictions on the use of the collection. For more information, contact

American Jewish Historical Society, Center for Jewish History, 15 West 16th Street, New York, NY 10011

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Related Material

I-52: National Jewish Welfare Board. Bureau of War Records. Papers, 1940–1969 (includes some official correspondence of Milton Weill).
P-369: Steinberg, Milton, 1903–1950. Papers, 1920–1981 (includes some correspondence with Milton Weill).
I-337: National Jewish Welfare Board. Records, undated, 1889-1995 (includes folder titles in Subgroup I: Governance, Series A: Governing Body, Subseries 4: Office of the President, Frank L. Weil Files).
Scrapbook; 92nd Street Y Bulletin. Archive, Buttenweiser Library, 92nd Street Y. For access, contact the Library Director. For an addendum of scrapbook contents, click here.

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Custodial History

Donated by Milton Weill prior and up to 1969.

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Preferred Citation

Published citations should take the following form:
Identification of item, date (if known); Milton Weill Papers; P-34; box number; folder number; American Jewish Historical Society, New York, NY, and Boston, MA.

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Access Points

Click on a subject to search that term in the Center's catalog. Return to the Top of Page

Container List

The following section contains a detailed listing of the materials in the collection.

 

Series I: World War I personal correspondence and documents, 1918-1919

The series is in English and French.
Box 1 (Folders 1-8) and 3 MAP folders (Oversized)
Arrangement:

Arranged by type of material

Scope and Content:

Included here are letters, telegrams, postcards, maps, and several artifacts such as Weill’s officer’s identity card, his officer’s record book, a coupon book of exemptions from French luxury tax, some French currency, and a notebook of 1918 clippings from The Stars and Stripes (an eight-page weekly published by the U.S. Army, on presses borrowed from Paris newspaper plants, to provide news from home and promote a sense of unity among soldiers stationed in France*). MAP folders contain two oversized maps of France and one of Belgium.

BoxFolderTitleDate
11Correspondenceundated, April to July, 1918
12CorrespondenceAugust to November, 1918
13Correspondence1919
14ATypescript copies of personal correspondence1918–1919
14BTypescript copies of personal correspondence1918–1919
15Telegrams and post cardsundated, 1918
16Miscellaneous documents and clippingsundated, 1918
17French currency and other items1919
BoxFolderTitleDate
MAP1Map of Belgium (Oversized)1916
MAP2Map of France and Colonies (Oversized)undated
MAP3Topographic map of Montfaucon, France (Oversized)1918
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Series II: National Jewish Welfare Board, 1941-1946

The series in in English with one document in Yiddish.
Box 1 (Folders 8-13) and Box 2 (Folders 14-17)
Arrangement:

Arranged by type of material.

Scope and Content:

This material consists mostly of internal Board correspondence, including many items in which Weill was a “cc” ("carbon copy") recipient, and some speeches. The memos and letters discuss combating anti-Semitism, promoting interfaith harmony, confronting public relations issues presented in published articles or wartime radio broadcasts, and the duties of army chaplains. Some interesting items are illustrated “unity messages” promoting the idea that all soldiers of all faiths are fighting together (these appeared on public posters); a 1943 letter from singer Eddie Cantor regarding his performance of a song, “The Smiths and the Jones, (the Kellys and the Cohens)” and a copy of the lyrics; correspondence about a controversial parody of the “Marine Hymn”; a New York Times photo (March 18, 1945) with the caption, “Jewish Services Held in Home of Dr. Goebbels”; a series of 1946 letters describing conditions for Jews in Latin American countries; a memo describing a letter from Harpo Marx—while on a USO Camp Show tour, the performer found an anti-Semitic book, You’re a Hard Mon, Goldberg, in an army base PX store; and a USO thank-you note to Weill for his donation of a battery-powered radio. One clipping in Folder 11 is in Yiddish.

BoxFolderTitleDate
18Speechesundated
19Speeches and correspondence1941–1942
110Speeches and correspondence1942–1943
111Newspaper clippings, published articles, correspondenceundated, 1943–1946
112Correspondence and memoranda1943
113Speeches and correspondence1944
BoxFolderTitleDate
214Correspondence and memoranda1943–1944
215Correspondence, radio scripts, and war records1943–1945
216Correspondence, minutes, and financial records1945
217Correspondence, minutes, and war records1946
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Series III: Steinberg, Milton, Rabbi, 1937–1954

The series in in English and Hebrew.
Box 2 (Folders 18-26)
Arrangement:

The series in in chronological order.

Scope and Content:

This group includes correspondence, some with Mrs. Milton Weill—the Weills were friends with the Steinbergs as well as members of Park Avenue Synagogue, where Milton Weill served as trustee. Some correspondence pertains to a 1949 lecture delivered by Steinberg: “Commentary Magazine: Benefit or Detriment to American Judaism?” The lecture addressed Commentary’s editorial policy of neglecting articles on vital aspects of Jewish life, such as religious observance and education; of presenting an anti-Zionist view; and of projecting condescension toward Jewish views and practices. Included are some responses to the lecture and a confidential memo from Rabbi Steinberg to Commentary’s editorial board. A service program in Folder 26 contains Hebrew.

BoxFolderTitleDate
218Correspondence re: Park Avenue Synagogue1937–1938
219Correspondence to Mrs. Milton Weill, including “church propaganda” booklets1938–1943
220Correspondence1946
221Correspondence1947
222Correspondence1948
223Correspondence1949
22424 Correspondence and published material relating to Commentary Magazine1949–1950
225Published material, newspaper clippings, and a dedication ceremony program1954
227Published material by Rabbi Steinbergundated
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Series IV: Typescript Copies of Dramatic Sketches, undated

The series is in English with one document in Yiddish.
Box 2 (Folders 27A-27B)
Arrangement:

The series is arranged in chronological order.

Scope and Content:

Two folders contain one handwritten and several typescript manuscripts of dramatic sketches, many of which are untitled and form the dialogue for musicals accompanied by a song order. Only one notes an author, Merry Men and the Merry Maids in Melody and Song, by Amelia Morgenroth.

BoxFolderTitleDate
227ATypescript copies of dramatic sketchesundated
227BTypescript copies of dramatic sketchesundated
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Series V: Scrapbook: World War I service (Oversized), 1917–1919

The is in English.
Box 3 (Oversized)
Arrangement:

Materials appear in original order.

Scope and Content:

The first dated item in this mostly un-annotated scrapbook is a 1917 Notice of Call to Appear for Physical Examination, followed by a 1917 Notice of Certification to District Board, a draft summons, and then a photo of Weill in uniform. Succeeding these official notices are several undated pages from the YMHA Bulletin, of which Weill served as editor. The first Bulletin page, headed “Good-Bye, Milton Weill!,” includes his photo and states, “We dedicate this page to Milton Weill, our brother member and editor, who left for the front a few days ago.” The next Bulletin page, headed “Our Honor Roll,” lists Weill as Army Sergeant. The last one, headed “’All Aboard for Camp Upton,’ by Sergeant Milton Weill,” is a one-page article describing the Camp Upton environment and daily routine, including several photos. In later Bulletin pages from 1917, Weill describes Camp activities under the heading “Somewhere on Long Island.”

To continue his editorial activity, Weill initiated The Bugler, an upbeat Camp Upton newsletter. The masthead states, “Published weekly by Co. D 307 Infantry, Editor, Milton Weill”; and “PRICEless” appears at the right margin. Under the heading “Editorial” for the October 6, 1917 issue: “The Bugler makes its reveille call with this issue.” Facing this are undated newspaper clippings pertaining to the Camp. Following are other Bugler issues from 1917 through 1918.

Some official notices are then interspersed with entertainment-related announcements. The notices include a 1917 U.S. Army certificate appointing Weill as Sergeant, Company D, 307th Infantry (together with a three-chevron fabric patch); a 1918 Certificate of Graduation from Third Officers’ Training School at Camp Upton (together with a group photo labeled “Officers’ T.S. 3d. Co. 4th Platoon 4th Sq. Camp Upton”); a 1918 Certificate from Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of the State of New York; and a 1918 acceptance of commission of Second Lieutenant (together with a metal pin). On the lighter side are an undated menu from the first Camp Upton “weekly dinner” and entertainment program; an poster for “307th Infantry Night, 44th St. Theatre, Sunday, Nov’r 25”; an undated postcard to “Ma”; 1918 issues of the YMCA publication, The Daily Rumor, including announcements of concerts, plays, and a baseball game with army performers and players; French advertisements, tickets and programs to shows; envelopes from the French Red Cross; and a Knights of Columbus War Activities publication announcing a Big Minstrel Show—with a handwritten note and arrow: “That’s the show.”

The year 1919 also produced a mixture of documents and few mementos. In a July 12, 1919 Certificate of Honorable Discharge from the Army of the United States, Weill is described as “Adv. Manager, brown eyes and hair, dark complexion, 5 feet 8 ¼ inches in height.” Medical records show inhalation of mustard gas, October 9, 1918. The American Expeditionary Forces Headquarters of Supply issued undated “extracts” indicating permission to travel and a seven-day leave-of-absence permit for travel to Nice. Then we see photos, a French hotel bill, and a map of Nice, followed by undated programs of plays performed by soldiers at the YMCA Trianon Theatre.

Possibly the most historically significant item in this scrapbook is a 1918 program for “Yip Yip Yaphank, a military ‘mess’ cooked up by the boys of Camp Upton, (in aid of the fund to establish a community house at Camp Upton for the wives, mothers, and sweethearts who visit their boys at camp.)” The words and music were by Sergeant Irving Berlin, and the entire production was under his personal direction. A biography of Irving Berlin (born Israel Baline) in the Jewish Virtual Library¥ states:

  • In World War I, he wrote the musical Yip, Yip, Yaphank, which was produced by the men of Camp Upton. In this musical, the big hit song was “Oh, How I Hate to Get Up in the Morning,” which reflected Berlin’s aversion to rising early. This musical raised more than $150,000 to build a service center at Camp Upton.

According to American Treasures of the Library of Congress§:

  • The original version of “God Bless America” was written by Irving Berlin…during the summer of 1918 at Camp Upton…for his Ziegfeld-style revue, Yip, Yip, Yaphank….However, Berlin decided that the solemn tone of “God Bless America” was somewhat out of keeping with the more comedic elements of the show and the song was laid aside.

The Camp Upton site is now occupied by Brookhaven National Laboratory, which incorporates the Camp Upton Historical Museum#. Life at the Camp and Milton Weill’s impact on the his colleagues there is described in Christopher M. Sterba’s Good Americans: Italian and Jewish Immigrants during the First World War.**

[See ADDENDUM for a descripton of the Scrapbook held at the 92nd Street Y]

Box TitleDate
3 World War I Scrapbookundated, 1917-1919
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