Monday, September 25, 2017

Anatomy of a Logo: Variety

The Variety logo was designed by Edgar Melville Miller, a sign painter and Mason. The magazine was created by Simon J. “Sime” Silverman and debuted December 16, 1905 (below). At the time, Variety was located in the Knickerbocker Theatre Building at 1402 Broadway. It’s not known when or how Silverman met Miller.

Miller also designed and illustrated the cover format. He signed his name, “Edgar M. Miller N.Y.” under the pillar on the right; other times it would say “E.M. Miller N.Y.” in the bottom middle. Miller’s name appeared on the covers from the beginning to July 27, 1917.

The first three issues of Variety also had advertisements for Miller’s services.

A revised Variety logo first appeared on the October 5, 1907 issue (below).

Miller was born in Milton, Pennsylvania on September 2, 1869 according to his Social Security application (at and a profile in Masonic Standard, February 28, 1903.

Bro. Miller was born in Milton, Pa., Sept. 2, 1869. He received his education in the schools of his native place. He learned his trade, that of sign and scenic painter, in Kansas City. Mo. He came to New York in May, 1898, and has since been connected with Keith’s Theatre.

In the 1870 U.S. Federal Census, Miller was the youngest of two children born to shoemaker Harry and Emma. They lived in Milton, Pennsylvania.

According to the 1880 census, the Millers resided in Ridgeway, Kansas. Apparently Miller’s older sister had died since her name was missing in the census. Miller was the oldest of four brothers whose father was a mine foreman.

The 1895 Kansas state census recorded Miller, his parents and brother William as residents of Topeka. Miller’s occupation was painter.

The Ohio county marriages, at, recorded Miller’s marriage to Fannie E. Smith on March 18, 1896 in Hamilton. A Social Security application by one of the daughters had her mother’s name as Francis Schmidt.

In May 1898 Miller moved to New York City. He has not yet been found in the 1900 census.

The Masonic Standard detailed Miller’s rise in its ranks. 

Zetland Chapter No. 141, Royal Arch Masons, celebrated its fiftieth anniversary last night by a special convocation and reception in the Commandery room, Masonic Hall. This interesting event comes too late for this issue, but will be fully described in these columns next week. The High Priest of Zetland Chapter, Comp. Edgar M. Miller, is also Master of Worth Lodge No. 210, and is necessarily a very busy man, Masonically….

…Bro. Miller was raised in Worth Lodge No. 210 May 25, 1900, and went actively to work. In December 1900, seven months after he was raised, he was elected Junior Warden, and served faithfully and with ability in 1901. The next year he was Senior Warden, and in December last was elected Master.

His fervency and zeal were equally marked in Zetland Chapter No. 141, in which he was exalted Nov. 15, 1900. He was appointed Principal Sojourner in December, 1900, was elected King in December, 1901, and High Priest in December 1902.

He received the grades in the Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite, up to and including the Thirty-second Degree, in October, 1900, and the Order of Nobility in Mecca Temple, Nobles of Mystic Shrine, Oct. 30, 1900.
Miller was in the center of a group photograph published in the Masonic Standard, March 7, 1903.

In Variety, December 23, 1905, Miller’s advertisement said his studio address as “782 Eighth Avenue, New York City, Near 49th Street”. He may have been involved with the signage on the front of the building. It’s not known how long Miller’s studio was there. In June 1909 the building had the notorious reputation as the site of Elsie Sigel’s murder.In the 1910 census, Miller made his home in the Bronx at 413 East 145th Street. The sign painter had three sons and a daughter; all born in New York except the youngest, a seven-month-old son whose birth was in Kentucky. 

Variety, March 19, 1910, reported Miller’s new job, “Edgar M. Miller, the well known sign painter of Broadway, who had been responsible for all of the showiest “boards” for the past years, has been engaged by the Plaza permanently.”

Miller’s “The Great White Plague. vs. The Great White Way” was published in the June 10, 1911 issue of Variety. The same issue had an outline version of the logo (below).

At some point Miller changed careers and residence.

Miller’s home was Jersey City, New Jersey at 16 Lembeck Avenue in the 1920 census. The traveling salesman had a second child, a daughter, born in Kentucky.

Back in New York, the Variety logo was condensed and bolder on the April 16, 1920 issue (below). It’s not known who did this version.

The logo on Variety, July 11, 1928, returned, to some degree, to the original design. Again, it’s not known who did this version.

The entire Miller family was counted at the same address in the 1930 census. Miller was medical salesman.

The Jersey Journal, February 26, 1931, published a death notice for Miller’s wife.

Miller—On Tuesday, February 24, 1931, at her residence, 16 Lembeck Avenue, Jersey City, Frances E. Miller, beloved wife of Edgar M. Miller. Remains reposing at the Funeral Home of Lewis W. Baumuller, 23 East 33rd Street, Bayonne, N.J. Funeral services will be held at Grace Episcopal Church, Pearsall and Ocean Avenues, on Friday, February 27, 1931, at 2 p.m. Interment Bay View Cemetery.
Miller and his youngest son continued to live at the same house in Jersey City as recorded in the 1940 census. Miller was retired. On July 23, 1941, he filed his Social Security application.

Miller’s death was noted in the New York Times, April 3, 1955.

Jersey City, April 2—Edgar M. Miller, a retired drug salesman, active for many years in New York Masonic organizations, died late yesterday in the Jersey City Medical Center. His age was 86. He resided here at 16 Lembeck Avenue.
Death notices appeared in the Times the following day.
Miller—On Friday, April 1, 1955, Edgar M., beloved father of John, Richard, Earl, Mrs. Ruth McGrath and Mrs. Thelma Vogel. Masonic Services will be held at the Baumuller Funeral Home, 23 East 33d Sy., Bayonne, N.J., on Monday, April 4, at 8:30 P.M. Interment New York Bay Cemetery, Jersey City.

Miller—Edgar M. Worth Lodge, No. 210, F. and A.M., sorrowfully announces the death of its believed Past Master, Worshipful Edgar M. Miller. Masonic Service will be held at the Baumuller Funeral Home, 23 East 33d Sy., Bayonne, N.J., on Monday, April 4, 8:30 P.M.
Carl T. Johnson, Master.
A.A. Ogilvie, Secretary
On April 5, 1955, the Jersey Journal published Miller’s obituary.
Edgar M. Miller, 86, of 16 Lembeck Ave., Jersey City, died Sunday [sic] at the Jersey City Medical Center. He was a retired drug salesman for a New York concern.

Mr. Miller was a member of the Zetland Chapter of Royal Arch Masons of New York, of Morton Commandery Number 4 of the Knights Templar of New York, and of Mecca Temple, A.A.O.N.M.S. of New Jersey.

He is survived by three sons and two daughters.

Funeral was held today from Lewis W. Baumuller Funeral Home in Bayonne.
The current Variety logo can be viewed here.

(Next post on Monday: THE)