Henry Miller’s Winter Garden Tokens

Henry MillerBorn in Lobenstein Germany on April 2, 1820, Henry Miller emigrated to the United States on July 1st 1845.  Upon his initial arrival in New York City, Miller immediately located to Philadelphia.

Upon his arrival in Philadelphia, Miller took a job as a scale-maker, and pursued this vocation until 1849.  Having noticed a deficit of German restaurants in the areas from Vine street to Girard avenue, and 7th to 19th street, he rented his own venue at 722 Vine street.

Consisting of a small bar and restaurant, at the time of its opening that area of Philadelphia was quite rural, and thus with few other nightly options, his establishment was immediately profitable.

After about two years of operation, Miller pursued adding nightly entertainment.   He started with a pianist and a violinist, and soon thereafter additional musicians were added until he amassed an eight-piece orchestra. In addition to his orchestra, Miller also added an ensemble of operatic singers. Within six years of operation, Miller’s business had become a huge success.

When he first started out his establishment was quite primitive, but by the mid-1850s Miller had purchased his restaurant building, as well as purchased the lots on both sides of his property.

Over time Miller made improvements to his properties, as well as added additions and other buildings. All connected, they eventually comprised his Winter Garden concert hall.

In 1866 Miller took a break from his business pursuits.  Having amassed a fortune, he leased his venue to another businessman, Jacob Valer, and took a vacation back to his German homeland.  After vacationing for about a year, Miller returned to Philadelphia where he opened another saloon and restaurant at 729 Sansom street.

Illustrated trade card depicting the crowded interior of Henry Miller's concert hall, winter garden and hotel. Circa 1860s-70s
Illustrated trade card depicting the crowded interior of Henry Miller’s concert hall, winter garden and hotel.
Circa 1860s-70s

Upon the expiration of Valer’s lease in 1871, Miller resumed control of his establishment on Vine street, and resumed improving the entertainment provided there.  Miller added vocal performances, overtures, and various variety acts, and began charging 10-cents admission.  By 1876 Miller had eliminated all of his German-themed performances, focusing instead on acts which appealed to all Philadelphians.

By the 1880s, Henry Miller’s Winter Park was renowned throughout the northeast United States.

The New York Clipper, June 19th, 1880
The New York Clipper, June 19th, 1880

Numismatic Specimens

While Russell Rulau lists varieties of tokens emitted by Henry Miller, no other information is provided. Indeed, Rulau is unable to even definitively assign dates of issues for Miller’s emissions.  However, based on the address listed on each token, it is probable that Miller had these tokens struck prior to the 1860s, before his venue spanned more than one address.

The table below outlines the three known varieties:

The Token Varieties of Henry Miller, Philadelphia PA

Pictured below is Miller PA-763.  Struck in brass, this specimen is approximately Very Fine in grade.  Only two are known, and thus this specimen has a rarity rating of R-8.

PA-763 Henry Miller Winter Garden Philadelphia

Aaron Packard [End Mark]

Notes and Sources

The text of this article originally appeared in The Civil War Token Society’s ‘The Copperhead Courier,’ Summer 1984, volume 18, Number 2.

  1. McElroy’s Philadelphia City Directory for 1863, 26th Edition, E.C. & J. Biddle & Co, Shermain & Son, 1863, pg.532
  2. Centennial Visitor’s Guide to the City of Brotherly Love, Morris Frank, 1876, pg.60
  3. Boston to Washington: A Complete Pocket Guide to the Great Eastern Cities and the Centennial Exhibition, Hurd and Houghton, Riverside Press, 1876, pg.177
  4. The New York Clipper, June 19, 1880, pg.104
  5. The New York Clipper, October 22, 1881, pg.508
  6. Standard Catalog of United States Tokens 1700-1900 Fourth Edition, Russell Rulau, Krause Publications, ©2004, pg.391
  7. The Library Company of Philadelphia Digital Collections
  8. The Library of Congress Digital Archives
Aaron Packard

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *