Collection inventory

Special Collections home page
printer friendly version

Betty Miller Papers

An inventory of her papers at Syracuse University

Overview of the Collection

Creator: Miller, Betty Albertus, 1933-2019.
Title: Betty Miller Papers
Inclusive Dates: 1829-2020
Quantity: 26.75 linear ft.
Abstract: Files, correspondence, photographs, printed material, posters, and artifacts (hair combs) relating to Betty Miller, the Miller Hair Comb Museum, and the Antique Comb Collectors Club International (AC3I)
Language: English
Repository: Special Collections Research Center,
Syracuse University Libraries
222 Waverly Avenue
Syracuse, NY 13244-2010

Biographical History

Betty Albertus Miller (1933-2019) was an American beautician and an expert in decorative hair combs.

Miller began collecting combs in the late 1950s, and eventually she and her husband Ralph accumulated the world's largest antique ornamental hair comb collection. In 1985 they opened the Miller Hair Comb Museum in Homer, Alaska, which held more than 3800 examples of hair combs, representing a wide variety of eras, regions, and materials, including combs from indigenous peoples of Alaska and the American Southwest and combs made from celluloid, jet, and tortoise shell. Miller was one of the founders of the Antique Comb Collectors Club (AC3), which became the Antique Comb Collectors Club International (AC3I) in 1992, and an appraiser of historical combs for a number of auction houses including Lloyd's of London. [Information drawn from her obituary in the Homer News, 19 Jun 2019.]

Return to top

Scope and Contents of the Collection

The Betty Miller Papers contains administration files, artifacts, correspondence-subject files, memorabilia, printed materials, research material, and miscellaneous items.

Administration files contains two subseries: AC3I and Miller Hair Comb Museum. The AC3I subseries relates to the Antique Comb Collectors Club International; it includes the club's constitution, convention materials including photographs, newsletters from the beginning of the club to its end, and so on. The Miller Hair Comb Museum subseries includes collection files, photographs of the combs in the collection, and information posters first used before there was a museum in 1983.

Artifacts consist predominantly of handmade combs, but also includes one textile item, a few mass-manufactured commercial items, and samples of materials commonly used for creating combs, such as jet, tagua nut, and tortoise-shell. One interesting item is a comb once owned by Natalie Talmadge, Buster Keaton’s second wife.

Correspondence-subject files consist mostly of letters from the directors of AC3I, including Mary Bachman, Theresa Bagasra, Glenn Beall, Jen Cruse, and Belva Green, discussing club and convention details. Scrapbooks created by Doris Dreyer-Hedge include newsletters from AC3I, convention photographs, the club’s constitution, and her own journal entries written during conventions.

Memorabilia contains a biography of Miller written by Belva Green, three commemorative coins from Leominster, Massachusetts, Miller’s lecture notes on the history of combs, her business cards and convention name tags, and a questionnaire on hair combs.

Printed materials includes publications compiled by and/or for AC3I, such as a book of trademarks and patents related to the comb making industry compiled by Theresa Bagasra, an AC3I member, a bibliography for AC3I members wishing to do more research on combs, and a hair comb and accessory museum guide compiled by Cheryl Canada, another AC3I member. Miller collected many clippings about the club, the museum, Alaska artifacts, and combs for sale. Mary Stokrocki, a professor at Arizona State University, published an article discussing Miller’s comb collection in relation to intergenerational understanding of hair combs as material culture.

Research material includes subjects such as Alaska and Native Americans of the region, comb advertisements, celluloid, horn, Martha Washington’s hair comb, Spanish combs and mantilla, and tortoise-shells, all of which seem to correspond to the types of combs Miller possessed in her collection. Miller’s original organization has been retained, with additional subjects identified during processing.

Miscellaneous consists of a photograph of the 1955 best breed at the Westminster Kennel Club, a partial newsletter, a treasure hunt activity sheet, and stories written by an unknown person.

Return to top

Arrangement of the Collection

Where possible, material has been kept in its original order. Administration files are divided into AC3I and the Miller Hair Comb Museum, each of which are then organized alphabetically. Artifacts are arranged numerically by box number. Correspondence-subject files are arranged alphabetically by person or topic. Memorabilia, Printed materials, and Research material are arranged alphabetically by type then chronologically.

Return to top


Access Restrictions

The majority of our archival and manuscript collections are housed offsite and require advance notice for retrieval. Please contact SCRC for more information.

Access to recordings requires advance notice to produce a use copy.

Use Restrictions

Written permission must be obtained from SCRC and all relevant rights holders before publishing quotations, excerpts or images from any materials in this collection.

Return to top

Subject Headings


Bachman, Mary.
Beall, Glenn.
Cruse, Jen.
Gardiner, Eleanor.
Green, Belva.
Miller, Betty Albertus, 1933-2019.

Corporate Bodies

Antique Comb Collectors Club (U.S.)
Miller Comb Museum.


Clothing and dress.
Hair ornaments -- Collectors and collecting.
Jet (Precious stone)
Material culture.
Ornamental combs -- History.
Ornamental combs -- Societies and clubs.
Ornamental combs -- Specimens.
Small museums -- Alaska.


Massachusetts -- Leominster.

Genres and Forms

Administrative records.
Celluloid (cellulosic)
Clippings (information artifacts)
Combs (hair ornaments)
Ivory (material)
Jet (coal)
Magazines (periodicals)
Minutes (administrative records)
Museum records.
Research notes.

Return to top

Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Preferred citation for this material is as follows:

Betty Miller Papers,
Special Collections Research Center,
Syracuse University Libraries

Acquisition Information

Gift of Ralph Miller, 2020.

Finding Aid Information

Created by: MRC
Date: 22 Jan 2020
Revision history: 17 May 2023 - collection processed (RMH)

Return to top


Administration files
Box 1 Board meeting minutes 1994-2002 (2 folders)
Box 1 Budget reports 1994-2002, undated
Box 1 Constitution undated
Box 1 Convention materials 1993, 1995-1997 (4 folders)
Box 1 Convention materials 1997 - 3-ring binders (6 folders)
Box 1 Convention materials 1999-2001
Box 2 Convention materials 2001 - 3-ring binders (2 folders)
Box 2 Convention materials 2003 - 3-ring binders (6 folders)
Oversize 12 Convention materials - photograph album 1995,
Box 2 Convention materials - photographs 1995, 1999 (3 folders)
Box 2 First membership letter 11 Oct 1985
Box 2 History of the club, 1996
Box 2 Homer trip 1998
Box 2 Newsletters 1985-2000 (4 folders)
Box 3 Newsletters 2001-2011, 2014 (4 folders)
Box 3 Newsletter index 1985-1993
Box 3 Newsletter samples undated
Box 3 Photographs mid-late 19th century - used in newsletters
Box 3 Subscription lists 1989, 1993-1999, 2003, undated
Box 3 Website printouts 1999-2001
Box 3 Miscellaneous undated - book review sample, untitled article in progress, draft of a how-to on taking care of combs
Miller Hair Comb Museum
Box 3 Appraisals 1995, 1998
Box 3 Auction houses 1999
Box 3 Collection files undated
Oversize 1 Index cards undated - tabbed cards include fact file, lectures, publishers, etc.; original order seems to have been lost
Map-Case Information poster 1983 - posters displaying pictures of places to which Miller traveled for combs, collections belonging to friends, and the museum's combs with descriptions next to them
Box 3 Invoices 1998, 2007
Box 3 Photograph album undated
Box 3 Photographs undated - combs in the museum's collection (3 folders)
Oversize 18 Photographs undated - enlarged printed photographs of combs
Box 4 Photographs, reference undated - reference photographs of combs on display in museum; photographs and combs were originally owned by Margaret Kimball Herlihy and used in her manuscript. (2 folders)
Box 4 Photographs, miscellaneous undated - hair art, bowls, postcards of combs
Box 4 Pricing of combs 1998-1999, 2007, undated
Box 4 Stationary undated
Oversize 2 Textiles 1999 (1 item)
The textile is a red, blue, and white hand-dyed short shawl, which was donated with the two Sumba combs.
Oversize 3 Combs (4 items)
The four hair combs are a tortoise colored curved comb, marbled green comb with an art deco pattern, and two black combs with faux or real jewels.
Oversize 4 Combs (2 items)
The two combs are Sumba curved decorative combs with one aluminium and the other tortoise. They were donated with the shawl above.
Oversize 5 Combs (3 items)
The three hair combs are an African wooden comb, a tortoise shell decorative comb, and a black plastic comb with fabric attached as decoration. The whale-shaped green comb is a brush comb.
Oversize 6 Combs and pins (3 items)
Three combs in this box are a small translucent orange; a brown wooden comb made by an indigenous person, possibly an Alaskan; and a small fish-shaped brush comb. The three pins are a red jeweled, two prong hair pin; a heavy silver, two prong pin; and a single or two prong white pin (it is unclear which side, of the pin is meant to hold the hair).
Oversize 7 Comb and pins (6 items)
This box contains one comb and five hair pins. The comb is an off-white comb with metallic balls attached to the top. The pins are a pale yellow pin with an Asian garden scene, a Japanese comb with kimono fabric and "Nagomi" titled on the back, a red pin in the shape of an Asian fan, a diancui pin, and a metal decorative pin.
Oversize 8 Accessories and combs circa 1945 (4 items)
This box holds accessories and combs. The accessories are a hold bob curler from circa 1945 and a green headband. The combs are a white circular comb with an African person's profile and a three comb set attached by hinges.
Oversize 9 Material samples (13 items)
The material samples consist of five tortoise shell samples, three hoof samples, a tague nut, two processed tortoise samples, a block of jet, and a rubber and glass or celluloid comb.
Oversize 10 Mass produced combs circa 1940 (5 items)
The mass produced combs are all in their original packaging. They consist of two Magik Grip hairpins, and E-Z Hair Curler, Original Grip-Truth Royal Diadems, a Zip Grip Barrette, and Pinette Tuck Combs.
Oversize 11 Miscellaneous (12 items)
This box contains a group of ten horn hair pins, a broom shape comb, and a yarn and beaded hair decoration.
Correspondence-subject files
Box 4 AC3I member open letters 1995-2000, 2013, 2016, undated
Box 4 Bachman, Mary 1993-2001, 2005, undated (4 folders)
Box 4 Bachman, Mary Collector's Guide to hair Combs... 1998 - photocopy of Bachman's book
Box 4 Bagasra, Theresa 1996-1997, 2000-2002, 2005
Box 4 Baron, Cliff 1982-1984, undated (2 folders)
Box 4 Beall, Glenn 1993-1998 (2 folders)
Box 5 Beall, Glenn 1994-1998, 2001, 2005-2007, 2010-2015 (4 folders)
Box 5 Cruse, Jen 1993-2001, 2005, 2009-2010, 2016, undated (2 folders)
Box 5 Cruse, Jen - photographs 1997
Dreyer-Hedge, Doris
Oversize 12 Scrapbook 1971-1986 - newsletters, photographs of combs, clippings of AC3I members and combs
Oversize 13 Scrapbook 1987-1990 - newsletters clippings, reference articles, photographs
Oversize 14 Scrapbook 1991-1996 - AC3I 1993-1996 roster, newsletters, photographs of conventions, photos of combs with some written information, clippings, early history of AC3I, correspondence, brochures from Miller Hair Comb Museum
Oversize 15 Scrapbook 1997-2000 - convention material from 1997 with photographs, Doris's journal entries, AC3I preliminary report of comb trademarks, newsletters, correspondence, clippings, 1996-1997 AC3I roster, AC3I constitution, 1999 convention materials
Box 5 Dodds hair art 1973, 1983-1984, 1987, 1993, undated
Box 5 Eleanor Gardiner Comb Collection undated - computer CD of Eleanor's comb collection (CD) (ID#: miller_ba_001)
Box 5 Gardiner, Eleanor 1983-1986, 1990, 1997, 2008, undated (2 folders)
Box 5 Green, Belva 1981-1983, 1986-2002, 2005, 2017, undated (4 folders)
Box 6 Green, Belva articles 1980-1983, 1986-1988, 1991-1995, 1998, 2001-2002, undated (2 folders)
Box 6 Lauer, Keith 1986, 1992-1995
Box 6 Miller, Betty 1983, 1992-1995, 1999-2001, 2004, 2008-2010, undated - copies of her sent letters
Box 6 Shapiro, Linda J. 1995-1998 (2 folders)
Box 6 Sullivan, Jo 2007-2008, undated
Box 6 Ten Haue, Kars 1994-1996
Box 6 Ysseldyke, Darcy 1998-2001
Box 6 Miscellaneous A-Z 1981-1989, 1992-1999, 2002, 2005-2010, 2017, undated (3 folders)
Box 6 Biography of Miller by Belva Green 1996
Oversize 1 Commemorative coins 1990 - 2 small plastic coins and 1 larger metal coin; original containers also in box
Box 6 History's [sic] combs; old lecture notes 1969, 1982-1983, 1986, undated
Box 6 Miscellaneous 1980-1981, 1998, 2007, undated - business cards, convention name tags, questionnaire on hair combs
Printed materials
Box 6 The 1997 AC3I Decorative Hair Comb and other Hair Accessory Museum Guide by Cheryl Canada 1997
Box 7 Bibliography for AC3I Publication 1999-2000
Brochures, miscellaneous
Box 7 AC3I 1995-1999, undated
Box 7 Miller Hair Comb Museum undated
Box 7 Miscellaneous 1995-1999 2008, 2020 undated - brochures for various museums around Alaska and the continental U.S. collected by Miller
Box 7 Calendar featuring antique combs and hair ornaments 2003
Box 7 AC3I club 1973, 1993-1997, 2001-2003, undated
Box 7 Alaska artifact articles 1926, 1937, 1984-1985, 1990-1995
Box 7 Combs, general 1968-1978, 1981-1982, 1984-1987, 1992-1995, 1998-2002, undated - clippings of combs for sale in collectors' magazines, articles about different types of combs, folders Miller labeled as "Combs," etc. (3 folders)
Box 7 Miller Hair Comb Museum, about 1976, 1981-1990, 1993, 1998, 2007 (2 folders)
Box 7 Miscellaneous 1970, 1983-1985, 1988, 1993, 2006-2007 - Alaska history; "letters to the editor" from newspaper, satirical Agony Aunt reply to childless couples
Oversize 18 Fashion plates, colored March, May, September, and December 1870 - reproduction colored fashion plates from Godey's Lady's Book
Box 7 Fibromyalgia 1999-2001, 2006-2008, undated
Box 7 "An intergenerational and semiotic exploration of hair combs as material culture" by Mary Stokrocki 2010 - article about Miller Hair Comb Museum collection
Oversize 18 Print undated - reproduction print of Jules Girardet painting Madrigal
Oversize 16 Trademarks and Patents Related to the Combmaking Industry compiled by Theresa Bagasra 1999
Oversize 17 Trademarks and Patents Related to the Combmaking Industry compiled by Theresa Bagasra 1999
Oversize 16 Trademarks and Patents Supplement compiled by Theresa Bagasta 2001
Research material
Miller's original organization and folder titles have been retained. Folder titles assigned during processing appear within square brackets, e.g. [Martha Washington comb].
Box 7 African 1998-1999, undated
Box 8 Alaska and Native American 1990, 1999, 2009, undated
Box 8 Bollé -Oyonnax, France 1995, undated
Box 8 Book information and customs 1983, undated
Box 8 Comb advertisements 1829, 1922, undated
Box 8 Comb, general articles 1925, 1940, 1979, 1991-1992, 1997, undated (2 folders)
Oversize 18 Comb, general articles 14 Aug 1905
Box 8 Composition comb decorations undated
Box 8 Celluloid (plastic) 1912, 1944, 1984, 1994, undated
Box 8 Garnets 1999
Box 8 Gold 1970, undated
Box 8 Hair art 1989, 1994
Box 8 Herlihy, Margaret Kimball 1968-1969, 1972-1975
Box 8 Horn undated
Box 8 Iron 1974, 1998
Box 8 Ivory 1972, 1992, 2001, undated
Box 8 King Tut undated
Box 8 [Leominster, MA] 1931, 1969-1971, 1979
Box 8 [Martha Washington comb] undated
Box 8 Oriental articles 1982, 1990, 1997, undated
Box 8 [South American combs] 1998
Box 8 Spanish combs and manteas [sic] 1962-1963, 1984, 1987-1988, 1995, 1998, undated
Box 8 Tortoise shell 1906, 1966, 1970, 1978, 1985, 1997, undated
Box 8 [Miscellaneous] undated - articles about Whitby, England and silk; clipping of a map of Napoleon's Europe; printed photographs of cases with various hair combs; advertisement for dressing comb sawing machines
Box 8 Miscellaneous 1955, 1997, undated
This folder contains a photograph of the 1955 best breed at the Westminster Kennel Club, a partial newsletter from the Plastics Historical Society, a treasure hunt activity sheet, and two stories written by an unknown person entitled "The Tale of my $1000 Fish" and "A Child of the King."

Return to top