University of Texas, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History

A Guide to the Milton and Helen Smith Papers, 1878-2002

Descriptive Summary

Creator: Smith, Milton and Helen
Title: Milton and Helen Smith Papers
Dates: 1878-2002 (bulk, 1950s-1970s)
Abstract: Milton and Helen Smith owned Economy Furniture Incorporated, a furniture manufacturing business in Austin, Texas. Milton’s father and brother started the business in 1930. Milton later became president of the company. The collection consists of personal and business records of the Smiths; correspondence and printed material from organizations including minutes, publications, and reports; and, photographs and sound recordings.
Accession No.: 2003-170
Extent: 30 feet
Language: Materials are written in English.
Repository: Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, The University of Texas at Austin

Biographical Note

Milton and Helen Smith owned Economy Furniture Incorporated, a furniture manufacturing business in Austin, Texas. Milton’s father and brother started the business in 1930. Milton later became president of the company. Helen managed the plant for three years when Milton was away during World War II. She later held various titles with the company, including personnel manager and vice-president.

Milton and Helen were extremely involved in the Jewish community, including Temple Beth Israel in Austin, and in B’nai B’rith organizations on the district, national, and international levels. They received the Humanitarian Award from B’nai B’rith in 1969. Helen served as president of B’nai B’rith Women International in 1975. Milton was president of B’nai B’rith on the international and district levels in other years.

The Smiths were also active in many other civic and philanthropic endeavors in Austin. Although neither of them graduated from The University of Texas, they gave generously to the school’s academic and athletic programs. Through their Moshana Foundation, they funded scholarships and the purchase of the Literaria Judaica collection at the Humanities Research Center. They were enthusiastic fans of University athletics; Helen corresponded often with the coaches.

Scope and Contents

The collection consists of personal and business records of the Smiths; correspondence and printed material from organizations including minutes, publications, and reports; and, photographs and sound recordings.

Personal papers included correspondence, calendars, and clippings from Milton and Helen Smith. Personal correspondence also covers business, Jewish, and civic matters found elsewhere in the collection. Helen was a prolific letter writer in her personal and business life. She kept copies of many of her letters, which are found throughout collection.

Business records (1954-2001) from Economy Furniture and Serta Products include correspondence, clippings, personnel records, financial and legal documents, blueprints, and production records. In 1968, production workers at Economy Furniture went on strike for more than two years. Their cause attracted national attention. Material pertaining to the strike is in the legal and management subseries in this series. This series also contains correspondence with the furniture manufacturers associations and publications from the Research Institute of America. Also included are oral history interviews with Mr. Smith in which he described the history of the company, the furniture business, his family background, and changes he has seen in his lifetime.

Records from Jewish organizations (1878-2002) consist of correspondence and printed material, including minutes, speeches, agendas, directories, pamphlets, and reports from B’nai B’rith organizations, Temple Beth Israel in Austin, and other groups in Austin and in the U. S. The bulk of the records, from B’nai B’rith Women, document Helen’s involvement with the group.

Philanthropy and Civic Involvement (1956-2001) records include correspondence and printed material from Austin-based secular organizations and The University of Texas at Austin.

Photographs are of the Smith family, friends, and acquaintances, including Darrell Royal, Rabbi Israel H. Levinthal, Harry Ransom, Gerald Ford, Leah Rabin, Lyndon Johnson, and Lady Bird Johnson; and of Economy Furniture's employees, products, and buildings.



Papers are arranged into five series.
Series I- Personal Papers of Milton and Helen Smith, 1957-2001
Series II- Jewish Organizations, 1878-2002
Series III- Philanthropy and Civic Involvement, 1956-2001
Series IV- Business Records, 1954-2001
Series V- Photographs, ca. 1930s-2002


Access Restrictions

Unrestricted access.

Use Restrictions

Most of this collection is stored remotely. Advance notice required for retrieval. Contact repository for retrieval.

Index Terms

Subjects (Persons)
Smith, Milton Theodore
Smith, Helen Gross
Subjects (Organizations)
B'nai B'rith
B'nai B'rith Hillel
B'nai B'rith International
B'nai B'rith Women
B'nai B'rith Youth Organization
Anti-Defamation League
Jewish Women International
Texas Hillel (University of Texas)
Temple Beth Israel (Austin, Tex.) -- History
Business- Austin, Texas
Furniture industry
Judaism -- 20th century
Jews--Societies, etc.
Labor Unions

Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Milton and Helen Smith Collection, 1878-2002, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, The University of Texas at Austin.

Processing Information

This collection was processed by Catherine Best and Emily Preece, July 2009.

Detailed Description of the Papers


Personal Papers of Milton and Helen Smith

2003-170/1 Helen and Milton [assorted correspondence for both] 1957-1962
2003-170/2 Helen Smith,
Correspondence and printed material, 1965-2001
Calendars, 1969, 1983-1986, 1988
Milton T. Smith
Correspondence, 1957-2003
Residential Papers
Cambridge Towers, 1968-1970
Point Venture property, 1972
Sonic boom complaint, 1962
Villa Serena Home Owners’ Association, 1977-2001


Jewish Organizations

2003-170/3 American Israel Public Affairs Committee, 1982-1984
Austin Jewish Community, 1956-1992
B’nai B’rith
Correspondence, 1972-1980
Convention Material, 1978
Administrative Committee
Minutes, 1970, 1972
Budget Report, 1972
Proposed Budgets, 1971, 1972
Board of Governors
Agenda, 1969
Correspondence, 1964-1966
Leaders Conference Report, 1970
Minutes of Meetings, 1972, 1977
Commission on Adult Education, 1960-1967
Commission on Citizen, Veterans and Community Affairs, 1976
Commission Israel, 1965-1966
Correspondence and Printed Material, 1963-1997
Constitutions, 1971, 1976
Convention Material, 1957-1958
Department of Tours, 1972-1974
Directories (national and district), 1972-1988 1990-1991
2003-170/4 Financial Reports, 1968, 1972, 1976
Home and Hospital for the Aged, 1962-1964
Institutes of Judaism, 1962-1963
Leo N. Levi Memorial National Arthritis Hospital
Correspondence and Printed Material, 1966-1968
Membership and Programs,
Dramatic Readings and Notes for Sermons, undated.
Planning and Research
Correspondence and Printed Material, 1969-1974
Survey- “The Units of B’nai B’rith and B’nai B’rith Women,” 1978
Triennial Conventions
Correspondence and Printed Material, 1965-1974
Reports to Triennial Convention, 1968
Correspondence and Minutes, 1971, 1974
2003-170/5 Voice [publication],
Correspondence and Printed Material, 1959-1963
Budget, 1965-1968
Constitution, 1968
Convention, 1965
Directory, 1977-1978
District 7 Correspondence and Printed Material, 1953-1966
General Correspondence and Printed Material, 1962-1966
Leadership 1963-1964
Membership, 1955-1964
2003-170/8 Newspaper Correspondence, 1957-1958
Procedures, ca. 1960s
Speeches [given by Milton Smith], 1965
Texas State Association
Correspondence and Printed Material, 1954-1957
Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith
2003-170/6 National
Audit Report, 1974
Correspondence and printed material,
General, 1979-2001
National Program Committee, 1958-1962
Southwest District
Correspondence and Printed Material, 1957-1988
Dinner with the governor, 1963
2003-170/8 B’nai B’rith Hillel Foundation
Annual Reports, 1974-1976
Budget, 1969
Correspondence and printed material, 1953-1969
Directories, 1970-1971, 1975-1976
Publications, 1975
B’nai B’rith Women [later named Jewish Women]
Printed Material, 1990
2003-170/7 Aids and Speeches [given by Helen Smith], 1952-1976
Allocations Committee
2003-170/8 Correspondence and printed material, 1964-1973
Biennial Convention, 1976
Book of Reports, 1965
Budget Committee Meeting, 1964
Bulletins, 1963-1965
2003-170/9 Children’s Home in Israel
Correspondence and Printed Material, 1969-1973
2003-170/10 Convention, 1965-1966
Constitutions, 1959, 1972
2003-170/9 Correspondence and Printed Material, 1960-1994
2003-170/10 Directories (national and district), 1958-1965, 1971-1991
Executive Board
Correspondence and Minutes, 1964-1988
2003-170/11 Manual, 1990-1992
Meeting, 1963
Expenses, 1973
Four Year Plan, 1984
Fund Raising, 1966-1968
Indoctrination, 1960-1962 1960-1962
Jewish Children’s Home Service, 1963-1966
Management Study of the B’nai B’rith Women, 1972
Membership, 1961-1969
National Conference on Youth
Correspondence and Printed Material, 1959
Planning Committee, 1971-1973
Policy Handbook, 1960
Reports and Minutes, 1960-1965
Treasurer, 1962-1965
Voice [publication]
Correspondence, 1964-1968
2003-170/12 Allocations for District 7, 1967-1969
Austin Chapter, 1962-1963
Board Training, 1984
Bulletins, 1962-1965
Constitution, 1957
Correspondence and Printed Material
General, 1961-1969
District 1, 1963-1964
District 2, 1965-1969
District 3, 1963-1964
District 4, 1963-1964
District 5, 1963-1965
District 6, 1963-1969
District 7, 1963-1969
Texas, 1964-1965
District Conventions, 1965, 1971, 1973
Expansion, 1961-1968
Office Advisory, 1963-1964
B’nai B’rith Vocational Service
1959 Policy Handbook,
Printed Material, 1959-1960
B’nai B’rith Youth Organization
Correspondence and Printed Material, 1959-1977
2003-170/13 District
Correspondence and Printed Material, 1967-1968
Jewish Women International [formerly B’nai B’rith Women]
Board Meetings, 1995, 1996, 1999
Correspondence and Printed Material, 1995-2002
Financial Statements, 1994-1995, 1997
Hadassah [Austin Chapter] 1979, 1994
Jewish Children’s Home Service
Correspondence, Minutes and Printed Material, 1963-1966
Jewish Community Council of Austin
Correspondence and Printed Material, 1956-1992
Long Range Planning Central Committee, 1982, 1986-1987
Jewish Welfare Fund, 1956
National Jewish Hospital at Denver, 1960-1967
Temple Beth Israel, Austin, Texas
110th Anniversary
Annual Report, 1998-1999
Building Committee, 1992-199
Budget Committee, 1992-1997
Budget Report and Minutes, 1988
Cantorial Selection Committee, 1993-1997
2003-170/14 Child Development Center, Ad Hoc Committee, 1991-1992
Correspondence and printed material, 1878-1986
Confirmation Classes, 1989-1991
Ritual Committee, 1987-1995
Sisterhood Handbook, 1976-1977
Special Committee for Hebrew Study at Temple, 1963-1967
Texas Jewish Historical Society, 1990, 1996
World Conference of Jewish Organizations 1976
Annual Report from Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, 1976


Philanthropy and Civic Involvement

2003-170/15 Austin Chamber of Commerce
Economic Development Fund, 1959-1964
Austin Housing Authority Lakeside Apartments, 1967
Austin Urban Renewal Agency 1954-1967
Community Council of Austin and Travis County- Hospitals, 1966-1968
Goodwill Industries, 1959-1962
Greater Austin Association
“Goals for Austin”, 1967
Human Relations Commission, 1967-1969
Israel Bond Fund, Austin, 1962
KLRN Auction, 1967-1968
KLRU, 9 1988-198
National Wildflower Research Center, 1994-1996
2003-170/16 Texas Fine Arts Association, 1962
Travis County Grand Jury, 1960
Travis County U. S. Savings Bond Drive, 1964
United Fund, 1956, 1968-1969
United Negro College Fund Advisory Board, 1965
United Service Organization, 1955-1956
United Service Organization, 1955-1956
University of Texas
Correspondence and printed material,
Athletics, 1963-2001
General, 1991-2001
Delta Phi Epsilon/ Tillie Oderholz Trust, 1961-1997
Hillel Texas
Correspondence and printed material, 1963-1996
Israel H. Levinthal Scholarship, 1992-2001
Literaria Judaica at the Humanities Harry Ransom Research Center, 1966-1972


Business Records

2003-170/17 Economy Furniture Incorporated
Clippings and correspondence, 1952, 1987-1988
Business Correspondence
Applicants, 1963-1969
General, undated, 1957-1966, 1991
B. I. E. Day [Business Industrial Education], 1957-1959
Industrial Cooperative Training (high school), 1966-1972
Labor Reform Act/ House Bill 8410, 1977
Personnel Correspondence, 1954-1962
Right to Work/ House Bill 1374, 1973
2003-170/26 Calendars 1983-1998
Employee Records
2003-170/18 Absentee Reports, 1962-1963, 1973-1982
Employee Lists
2003-170/17 Correspondence and printed material, 1956-1960, 1973-1989
“The Frame Up”, 1955-1968
Job Ads, 1975-1987
Hearing Tests 1974
Master List, 1982-1987
Work Sheets, 1962-1963
2003-170/27 Life Insurance
Enrollment Cards, 1952-1974
Premium Charges, 1968-1975
2003-170/17 Drivers, 1982-1987
Lumber Unloaders, 1963-1964
Master Personnel
General Correspondence, 1977-1987
2003-170/19-20 Office Personnel, 1985-2000
Personal Scratch Notes, 1956-1963
Personnel Requests [job postings], 1977
Private Industry Council, 1980-1981
Salary Records and Correspondence, 1954-1962
Safety, 1982-1989
Salesmen, 1977-1986
Time Study, 1987
Union Dues, 1984-1989
United Way Contributions, 1983-1986
Upholsterers International Union 456
Correspondence and printed material, 1972-1984
Vacation Balances, 1982
Equipment, 1958
Financial Reports
2003-170/21 Accounts Receivable [lists of checks], 1972-1978
Balance Sheets, 1951
2003-170/19 History of Company
Clippings 1975-1980
2X387d Oral History
Mitlon Smith to Thad Sitton interviews
Oct. 14, 2003 [2 audiocassette tapes]
Oct. 15, 2003 [2 audiocassette tapes]
Oct. 20, 2003 [2 audiocassette tapes]
Oct. 21, 2003 [2 audiocassette tapes]
Nov. 4, 2003 [2 audiocassette tapes]
Nov. 6, 2003 [2 audiocassette tapes]
2.325/D27d Scrapbook
Legal Records
2003-170/22 Incinerator Lawsuit, 1957-1962
Upholsterers’ Strike
Agreements between Economy Furniture and the Upholsterers’ International Union of North America, 1971-1985
Correspondence, 1971-1973
Sample Labor Contracts, 1967-1971
Union grievances, 1975
Union Correspondence,
George McNew, 1958-1962, 1968
Neal Spelce Associates, 1972
2003-170/25 Research Institute of America
Correspondence and printed material, 1962-1984
Publications by topic, 1956-1984
Personnel Relations
2003-170/26 Operations
2003-170/21 Unions and Strikes
Printed Material, 1965-1972
2003-170/23 Physical Plant
Boiler from S. S. Hope, 1975-1979, 1996
Blueprints and Fire Protection, 1959-1976
New Building
Clippings and correspondence, 1963-1964
Invitation List for Opening, 1964
Security, 1995-2001
Visits, 1967
2003-170/27 Production
Furniture Design,
Correspondence and printed material, 1959-1960
Labor Cost Sheets, 1982
Production Work Schedules, 1987, 1991
Products, 1981-1982
Proposal for Furnishings, 1960
Sales Analysis, 1983
Upholsterers’ Strike- see Agreements
Other Companies
2003-170/24 M-J-S Oil Corporation
Correspondence, 1956-1961
Serta (Dormae) Products
Correspondence and printed material, 1957-1984
Furniture Market and Associations
Chamber of Commerce of the United States
Correspondence and printed material, 1958-1960
Dallas Home Furnishing Mart
Correspondence, 1959-1966, 1984-1986
Furniture Board of Governors
Correspondence, 1965
National Association of Bedding Manufacturers
Letter, 1983
National Association of Furniture Manufacturers
Correspondence and Printed Material, 1959-1972
National Federation of Independent Business
Correspondence and printed material, 1960-1962
Southern Furniture Manufacturers Association,
Correspondence and printed material, 1969-1971
Southwestern Furniture Manufacturers Association
Correspondence, 1955-1960
Southwestern Furniture Marketing Association
Correspondence and printed material, 1960-1965
Texas Furniture Dealers Political Action Group, 1963
Texas Manufacturers Association, 1957-1959
2003-170/28 Photographic Material
Smith Family, ca. 1930s-2002
Economy Furniture, ca.1940-1974