The Danoff Brothers: Louis, Samuel & Simon: Jewish Pioneers of Gallup, New Mexico

The Danoff Brothers

Values Codes I – E – L


Louis Danoff

Louis Danoff was born in Vilna, Lithuania in 1881.

A woodcarver by trade, Louis Danoff journeyed to America in 1907, where he joined relatives in the furniture business in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

In 1918, Louis and his family journeyed to New Mexico to join his younger brothers Samuel and Simon.

Louis’ family of four settled on the homestead/ranch property, while Sam and Simon moved to Gallup to manage the new store.

The Indians at the Trading post nicknamed Louis Danoff: “The Honest Man.”

The Danoffville Trading Post was an adobe hut located 50 yards from their house in McKinley County, in the Northwest corner of New Mexico — surrounded by Indian reservations.

The Danoff Brothers' Store, Gallup, NM, #WS0410

The Danoff Brothers’ Store, Gallup, NM,  #WS0410

The Danoffs purchased the Indians’ goods, such as jewelry, blankets and wool.

They created their own form of currency, called Danoff Money, which was only good for trading in their store.

When an Indian wanted to sell something, he was asked whether he wanted “American Money” or “Danoff Money.” A 75 cent American Money ring would fetch $1 in Danoff Money. 

The Danoff family, like other Indian traders, used these trader coins until 1930.

In 1922, Louis Danoff and his family relocated to Los Angeles, California, due to a lack of Jewish life in Gallup.

The family settled in the Boyle Heights area. In 1931, the Danoff family lived at 1031 N. Chicago St.

Louis Danoff sold his shares in the family stores to his brothers and returned to his woodcarving trade, where he did architectural woodcarving for St. Vincent’s Catholic Church (on the corner of Figueroa and Adams) and the Elks Temple (at Sixth and Park View St.) in Los Angeles.



In 1909, Louis Danoff married and had a son, Hyman O. Danoff, who was born in 1910.

His daughter, Leona, was born in 1917.


Louis Danoff died in 1933, and was buried at the Home of Peace Memorial Park in Los Angeles.


Samuel Danoff

Sam Danoff, Gallup, NM, 1912, #WS0408

Samuel Danoff, Gallup, NM, 1912, #WS0408

Samuel Danoff was born in 1884 in Vilna, Lithuania.

He came to America in 1907 to escape the Tsar’s army, settling in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

There he worked there as an upholsterer.

Samuel Danoff contracted tuberculosis and moved to Gallup, New Mexico in 1911.

While regaining his health, he worked as a sheepherder in the mountains near Gallup.

Samuel was an honest worker who helped his employer’s flock to flourish.

By 1913, he started his own successful herd, which he sold when he became an Indian trader.

The trading post, called Danoffville, was located on a homestead belonging to Samuel and his brother, Simon, also had a U.S. Post Office. Samuel Danoff was the Postmaster.

The Indians nicknamed him, “Big Nose.”

Around 1918, Samuel went to purchase merchandise in Gallup and ended up buying a complete retail store, with merchandise included, for $4,000.

He sent a telegram to his older brother, Louis, in Grand Rapids asking him to come to Gallup to join the family businesses.

In 1922, Samuel, Simon and Louis Danoff were on the board of directors of the Inter-Tribal Indian Ceremonial in Gallup.

The Danoff cattle brand was a 2 on top of a 5.  These numbers were not significant to the family, except that very little iron was used so there was minimal burning on the cattle.

Samuel and Simon purchased supplies from the Charles Ilfeld Company of Las Vegas, New Mexicoas well as from a Gallup Mercantile firm.

Samuel and his wife, Rose (Resnick) Danoffmanaged the Indian trading post in Gallup until their retirement in 1946.

Their son, Izzy, took over the store’s operation and worked there until 1967.



Samuel married Rose in 1914.  They had four children: Hyman J., Esther, Sidney, and Isadore (called Izzy). 

Samuel Danoff was interred in the Jewish cemetery in Albuquerque, New Mexico.


The Danoff Well, Danoffville, NM, circa 1930, #WS0411

The Danoff Well, Danoffville, NM, circa 1930,

Simon Danoff

Simon Danoff followed his brother, Samuel, to New Mexico, where he earned a living as the Singer Sewing Machine representative for the New Mexico territory.

The two brothers homesteaded on 160 acres of land and built a house and a store to serve the Navajo and Zuni Indians who lived in the area.

The Indians nicknamed him “Little Big Nose” because he was shorter than Sam.



Simon Danoff married and had three children: Joseph, Milton, and Marilyn.



  • Hyman Danoff, “Indian Traders of the Southwest: The Danoff’s of New Mexico,” Western States Jewish Historical Quarterly 12/4.

Samantha Silver is the curator for this Danoff Brothers exhibit.