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Milontaler Family Papers

 Collection
Identifier: P-553

Scope and Content Note

The Milontaler Family Papers provides some information on a family in early 20th century Boston. The collection consists primarily of Maurice's notes for his memoir, but his final manuscript helps to piece together some of the early history of Jews in the North End of Boston as well as the personal history of his father, Louis Millionthaler. As part of his research, Maurice obtained copies of family members' marriage and birth certificates, which, in addition to his name change certificate and Louis's naturalization certificate, place the family on the timeline.

In addition to Maurice's notes, a small but excellent collection of photographs is inSeries I. The photographs contain images of Frances Levine Milontaler; her mother's family, the Josephs, as well as her father Abraham Levine; the Milontaler's storefronts, insurance outings and family reunion, where people have been identified by Louise; a class photograph of Harold's grammar school class (dated 1924 but is most likely earlier, or it was mislabeled and is actually Louise's class); Louis Millionthaler, and Joseph Gorfinkle. Most photographs are labeled and dated.

Very little of Frances's or Louise's papers remain, but there is a large collection of Harold's notebooks, papers and ephemera from Harvard, as well as some pieces he tried to publish in The Forum. Unfortunately, most of Frances's and Louise's correspondence became scrap paper for Maurice's notes. In addition, correspondence between Maurice and Bernard Gorfinkle, as well as his niece Gwen (it is unclear whose daughter she was) highlight how important the memoir was to Maurice.

Finally, the collection contains a minor amount of documentation relating to the Milontaler's business, including cash books and account statements.

Dates

  • undated, 1880-1992

Language of Materials

The collection is in English.

Access Restrictions

This collection is open for researcher use. Please contact us to request access or to make an appointment to view this collection at jhcreference@nehgs.org.

Use Restrictions

There may be some restrictions on the use of this collection. For more information contact jhcreference@nehgs.org.

Biographical Note

The Milontaler Family of Roxbury, Massachusetts consisted of Maurice and Frances Levine Milontaler, and their children, Harold and Louise. Maurice's father was the well-known Louis Millionthaler, author of "Jesus and Rabbi Fleisher." Maurice's older sister was Sarah Millionthaler Gorfinkle, mother of Bernard Gorfinkle, whose papers are located in the AJHS repository in Boston, Massachusetts.

In general, the biographies of each Milontaler family member are spotty, at best. Louis Millionthaler was born in Suwalki, Russia in 1837. His father, Reb Label, was a bardchen who entertained on special occasions and traveled extensively. When Louis was eleven, his father passed way unexpectedly after returning home from one of his trips. Within the year, his mother, Sara Mera, passed away, leaving Louis and his married sixteen-year-old sister. As a Hebrew student, Louis traveled from town to town to get his education, and at eighteen he officially became a Hebrew teacher and entered an arranged marriage with sixteen- year-old Pesha Tupass from Rartzk in 1855. By 1870, Louis had arrived in the North End and worked as a teacher, eventually making enough money to send for Pesha and their three daughters. To earn enough money to support his family, Louis became a peddler, working in Cambridge, Somerville and Charlestown, establishing a route with steady customers. At some point, Louis published "Jesus and Rabbi Fleisher," which is listed as a new acquisition for the Boston Public Library in 1908. Louis passed away on June 8, 1917. Pesha outlived him by eleven years, passing away on February 12, 1928.

Louis and Pesha had at least four children: Sarah, who later married Harris Gorfinkle; Fanny, who married Zelig London; Esther, who married Joseph Gans; and Maurice (Moses, May 8, 1875-February 1965.) It is possible, but not clear, that Louis and Pesha had another son, Louis Thader, who changed his last name. Maurice later married Frances Levine (November 27, 1886-November 1978). They had two children, Harold Eli (December 12, 1910 or 1911?-March 1995) and Louise Hannah (September 15, 1917-February 10, 1998.) Neither Harold nor Louise married.

In 1907, at age 32, Maurice changed his last name from Millionthaler to Milontaler. Blank order forms indicate that Maurice and Frances owned the Beacon Shade and Screen Company in the Grove Hall section of Roxbury, Massachusetts, but little remains of their business records aside from some cash books, account information from other businesses, and photographs of MetLife insurance outings and some storefronts in the early 1900s. Not much else is known about Maurice, except that he decided in his retirement to write a memoir on the North End. This manuscript, "The North End of Boston: Gateway to the Goldener Land," survives in draft and final manuscript form. Maurice wrote many of his notes on scraps of paper, window shades and cardboard, and hired a secretarial student from Boston University to assist him in the preparation of the manuscript. According to Maurice's memoir, he originally thought his son Harold would be a good author for the book, but Harold declined the idea.

Frances (Fanny) Levine Milontaler was the daughter of Abraham and Clara Joseph Levine. Many photographs of the Levine and Joseph family survive, including those of a young Frances, many of her father and mother, and her uncle Israel Joseph, who was a Rabbi in Montgomery, Alabama. Abraham Levine was originally from Bialystok.

Harold Eli Milontaler was born in 1910 or 1911 and attended Roosevelt Grammar School, Boston Public Latin School (1928), and Harvard University (1932, cum laude.) His high school yearbook picture is on page 60 and describes his activities as president of the Junior Debating Society, and participation in the Literary and French clubs, and Track. He also won their Modern Prize for three years in a row and the Class of 1885 Prize. Harold was clearly a good student who took copious notes from his classes and enjoyed writing both fiction and non-fiction. He made some attempts to publish in The Forum but seemingly had little success. Very little is known about Harold. Surviving copies of Maurice's correspondence describes more about Louise than Harold, other than his graduation from Harvard. One letter from Harold to Maurice does survive and is postmarked from Westboro, Massachusetts. Remaining pages from a Westboro State Hospital Newsletter and Harold's own written outbursts in the letter indicate that he was suffering from mental illness and the family wished to remain quiet about it. Harold never married and later lived with his sister Louise in Brookline. Some photographs of Harold do exist: a negative of a photo taken with baby Harold and his grandfather, Louis, and a group photo of a teen- or college-aged Harold with Joseph Gorfinkle and two unidentified men. Harold passed away in 1995.

Louise Milontaler went to the Massachusetts Art School and taught at Boston University for many years. She was, for the most part, a self-employed photographic negative retoucher for 40 years. Louise never married and provided care for her parents, which she never regretted, according to a letter she wrote to Nicki Russler. In later years she lived in Brookline with Harold. Louise passed away in 1998.

Chronology

1837
Louis Millionthaler born in Suwalki, Russia
1855
Louis Millionthaler marries Pesha Tupass
1870
Louis Millionthaler immigrates to the North End of Boston
1875
Moses (Maurice) Millionthaler born
1886
Frances Levine Milontaler born
1907
Maurice changes his last name from Millionthaler to Milontaler
1910/1911
Harold Eli Milontaler born
1917
Louise Hannah born
1917
Louis Millionthaler dies
1928
Harold graduates from Boston Public Latin School
1928
Pesha Millionthaler dies
1932
Harold graduates cum laude from Harvard University
1965
Maurice Milontaler dies
1978
Frances Levine Milontaler dies
1992
Harold Milontaler dies
1998
Louise Milontaler dies

Extent

4.5 linear feet (9 manuscript boxes, 1 oversized folder)

Abstract

The Milontaler family were second- and third- generation Jewish immigrants from Roxbury, Massachusetts. Louis Millionthaler immigrated from what was then Suwalki, Poland to the North End of Boston in the late 19th century. His son Maurice Milontaler was a shop owner and amateur writer who wrote a memoir about Jewish life in the North End. The majority of this collection includes Maurice Milontaler’s notes for his memoir, as well as the finished product. Photographs, correspondence and course notebooks from Harold Milontaler’s years at Harvard University are also included.

Physical Location

Located in Boston, Mass.

Acquisition Information

Donated by Louise Milontaler in 1986.

Processing Information

Processed by Stephanie Call, 2008
Title
Guide to the Milontaler Family Papers, P-553
Author
Processed by Stephanie Call
Date
2008
Sponsor
Processed by Stephanie Call, Schilder Assistant Archivist, made possible by a grant from the Schilder Family Fund. This collection has been digitized, made possible by a grant from the Trustees u/w of Herman Dana.

Repository Details

Part of the Wyner Family Jewish Heritage Center at New England Historic Genealogical Society Repository

Contact:
99-101 Newbury Street
Boston MA 02116 United States
617-226-1245