Joseph Spiegel emigrated with his family from Germany to the United States in 1848, when he was eight years old.
The 1850 census revealed Joseph was living in New York Ward 11, New York, New York, with his parents Moses and Rachel and his three sisters and brother. They were all born in Germany. His father was a school teacher.
Joseph founded the Spiegel Catalogue Co. in Chicago in April 1865, just after the end of the Civil War. Spiegel eventually became one of the most important firms in the mail-order industry. In 1904, Joseph and his son, Arthur, switched to mail order. Spiegel mailed its first catalog in 1905. By 1925, it had 10 million customers.
His death certifacate lists his occupation as a Retired Furniture Merchant.