Lebanon, Pennsylvania, 1873–1920s.
The story of the Miller Organ Company of Lebanon Pennsylvania begins with two enterprising young farmers. Adam Miller was unable to come up with the funds for a parlor organ, so he set about making one. With his background in carpentry, making the wooden case was not difficult; however, details of the organ’s inner workings eluded him. He heard that an acquaintance, Abraham Miller,-no relation- had a reed organ in need of repair. Adam volunteered to make the repair so he could see how the organ's inner components were assembled. He proved to be a quick study; he had not only repaired Abraham’s organ, but he had built a reed organ his own use. Word of his accomplishment spread and soon Adam was being called on to build parlor organs for his neighbors. He constructed a shop to accommodate all the orders. In 1872, he built a factory at Eighth and Maple Streets in Lebanon and not long thereafter, Abraham became a partner in the firm. Business was very good: by 1886 six expansions of the company’s manufacturing plant had followed at that location.
While many Miller organs were purchased locally from the company’s retail outlet in Lebanon, roughly a third were shipped overseas to England, Germany, Russia, India, Japan and South Africa. The plant was located immediately adjacent to the Union Canal and railroad tracks which gave the firm an advantage in reaching distant markets.
Miller reed organs came in several cabinet styles, including parlor, piano, and chapel style. The company also made tracker-action pipe organs although no record has surfaced showing where they gained this skill. The first pipe organ was built for the Lebanon Moravian Church in 1881. Another was constructed for old Salem Lutheran Church, Lebanon, in 1888; it features a total of 1,705 pipes and remains in working condition.
In addition to being excellent-sounding musical instruments, Miller organs were also works of art. Most were made of black walnut, but quarter-sawn oak or red birch could also be ordered. With carved woodwork panels and options like beveled glass mirrors and stands for oil lamps, Miller organs were well appointed for Victorian homes and smaller churches. At its peak, circa 1901, the Miller Organ Company employed 60 skilled craftsmen and turned out approximately 1,600 organs annually. Roughly 30,000 organs were assembled in Lebanon before the company went out of business circa 1923. By then the firm was known as the Miller Organ and Piano Company. Adam Miller retired around 1904 and Abraham Miller died in 1911 following an elevator accident at the factory. The company’s attempted transition to building pianos, player pianos and the "Millerolla" - a version of the popular Victrola - apparently could not compete in the changing marketplace, and it ultimately fell victim to the times and newer technologies.
There is one entry in the database that describes an organ by Miller Organ Co. [A. B. & A. H. Miller].
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