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Milton Gilbert collection

 Collection — Box: Mixed k_23 (F), Folder: 3
Identifier: KA-0158-01


Milton S. Gilbert (1913-1976) was a professional hair stylist and entrepreneur, who apprenticed with Antoine of Paris, worked in the New York and Chicago Saks Fifth Avenue salons, and later owned beauty salons throughout the midwestern United States. The collection includes newspaper clippings, a business card and envelope, a photograph, and a biography by his daughter, Carol Diane Stewart.


  • circa 1930s-1950s, 2021



0.38 Cubic Feet (1 folder)

Language of Materials


Content Description

Two newspaper clippings, a business card and envelope, and a photograph relating to Milton Gilbert, a professional hair stylist who worked in the New York and Chicago Saks Fifth Avenue salons, and who eventually owned 45 beauty salons in the midwestern United States. These items were maintained by his daughter, Carol Diane Stewart, who included as part of the donation a brief biography of her father.

Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research use. Please contact for appointment.

Conditions Governing Use

To publish images of material from this collection, permission must be obtained in writing from the New School Archives and Special Collections. Please contact:

Biographical note

"Gilbert and His Connection to Saks Fifth Avenue" by Carol Diane Stewart, 2021

My father, Milton S. Gilbert, was born in East Orange, New Jersey in 1913. When he was just a small child, his father abandoned him and his mother, Sephora. Even though her brother, Harris, was an established businessman in New York, she insisted on returning to Poland to live with her mother.

After World War One, Gilbert grew up in Poland, spoke no English, and had no formal education. All he had for identification was his United States birth certificate. When Gilbert was fourteen, his mother died, leaving him orphaned and alone. He walked from Warsaw, Poland to Nice, France, where he got on a merchant ship. When the captain realized he was a United States citizen, he contacted the Red Cross, who in turn worked to reunite Gilbert with his Uncle Harris. It took several years, when finally Gilbert arrived back in New York at age seventeen, speaking no English and having had no formal education.

In 1930, the United States was deep into the Depression. Gilbert enrolled in night school to learn English. He also decided to go to barber college. Upon graduation, he got a job, continued to live with his Uncle Harris and family, and was doing well. One day, Harris came to Gilbert and told him to think about becoming a beautician, as Harris explained the real money was doing women's hair, not men's. So Gilbert agreed. Harris and Gilbert researched the craft of becoming a beautician. They determined the place to learn the craft was Paris, France and the person to learn from was Antoine.

Sometime in the early 1930s, Gilbert moved to France to study under the tutelage of Antoine of Paris. He lived and worked there for two years.

Antoine was instrumental in designing and opening the New York Saks Fifth Avenue salon. Upon Gilbert's return from Paris, he worked at the New York salon because of his apprenticeship and friendship with Antoine.

Within a few years, Saks decided to open a salon in the Chicago store under Antoine's leadership. At some point, Antoine became ill, and Gilbert was sent from New York to run the Chicago salon. My mother worked in the glove department. That is how they met. Gilbert continued to build his client base as his reputation grew. Gilbert opened his first salon in Chicago on Michigan Avenue. He was immensely successful. At the height of his career, he owned 45 beauty salons throughout Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, and Wisconsin.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Carol Diane Stewart, Milton Gilbert's daughter, donated the collection to The New School Archives in 2022.

Guide to the Milton Gilbert collection
New School Archives and Special Collections Staff
April 1, 2022
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