Joseph Soss: Jewish Contractor & Inventor of Helena & Butte, Montana

Joseph Schloss/Soss

Joseph Soss

Joseph Soss

Values Codes I – E – L


Joseph Schloss was born in 1863 in Bacau, Romania.


Along the way . . . .

Facing compulsory military service, Joseph Schloss migrated to Montreal, Canada where he worked as a bricklayer until he saved enough money to bring over his wife and child.

Schlossthen moved his growing family to Cleveland, Ohio, where the immigration authorities listed his name as Soss — and so it remained.

He learned English, became a contractor, and built schools, homes, and stores.


Helena, Montana

In 1898, Joseph Schloss responded to a national advertisement to bid on the construction of the Montana State Capital Building in Helena, Montana.

His bid was the lowest and he won the contract.

The Soss family moved to Helena, Montana that year.

After four years of construction, in hot summers and freezing winters, the State Capital Building was completed in 1902

Montana State Capital, completed in 1902, Vintage Postcard

Montana State Capital, completed in 1902, vintage postcard

Joseph Soss relocated to Butte, Montana after the Capitol Building was completed.

There, he built schools and other buildings in the copper-booming city.

At one point he was offered 1/2 interest in a mining claim for $5,000.

He had a young mining engineer check the mine and was told it looked like a “good risk.”

Rather than risk his own money, he let his engineer friend invest the $5,000.

Three years later the mine was sold to Anaconda for $2,000,000 dollars.

The young mining engineer, Herbert Hoover, got half.


The Concealed Hinge

Joseph Schloss next went to prospect for work in Manila, after the end of the Spanish-American War.

On the long voyage home he tripped over a projecting hinge.

Before he arrived in San Francisco, he had designed a model of a concealed hinge.

He received a patent and formed a company to manufacture his hinges.

Because his biggest customers came from the auto industry, the Soss family moved to Detroit.

A Soss Concealed Hinge, today.

A Soss Concealed Hinge, today

His company was called Soss Manufacturing, which was family owned until 1939, when it went public.

In 1997, the company returned to family ownership and is now called the Universal Industry Products Co., headquartered in Pioneer, Ohio.

Neil Marko, the owner and president, is the great-grandson of Joseph Soss.



Joseph Soss married Freda before coming to North America.

They had 5 children: Celia, Charles, Lena, Henryand Samuel.


Joseph Soss died in Manhattan in 1941.

He is buried at the Temple Israel Cemetery in Hastings-on-Hudson, New York.



Samantha Silver is our curator for this Joseph Soss exhibit.