Miller Music Company: Photos from the Estate of Ben B. Miller

One century ago the Miller Brothers opened Miller Music Company at 8 W. First St. in Duluth’s Spina Building. According to the Kathryn A. Martin Library’s Archives & Special Collections at the University of Minnesota Duluth, “Abe Miller was a violinist and the manager of the Duluth Symphony for 37 years beginning in 1932. Ben was an assistant manager of Northern Drug prior to launching the music store in 1922.”

The Millers had been engaged in instrument sales and repair prior to 1922, however.

The oldest newspaper ad available mentioning the Millers is the one above, showing Ben B. Miller selling instruments in 1916. In the summer of 1921 the Duluth Herald has classified ads for Miller Music at the same address as the 1916 ad — 224 W. First St, second floor.

The song “Yes We Have No Bananas” was released in 1923 and was a hit that year.

Gold Diggers of Broadway was a musical comedy film released in 1929. The store had moved to 32 E. Superior St. by then, and continued to be listed there until 1933. By 1934 the store is no longer listed in city directories.

Although Miller Music is listed at 32 E. Superior St. in 1930, this Hugh McKenzie photo dated March 18, 1930, shows it in the building next to the Pastoret-Stenson Block (aka Lowell Block). That address would be maybe 25 or 27 E. Superior St. — 32 E. Superior St. would be in the Hayes Block.

It’s not known who is in this photography studio photo.

This might be one of the Miller brothers at home with his wife, but that’s a guess.

The last two photos were shot in one of the versions of a Miller Music store, but it’s not clear which.

A random piece of Miller information pulled from the internet:

  • The December 1914 issue of Northwestern Druggist magazine notes “Ben B. Miller of the Northern Drug Company, Duluth, is driving a new Saxon automobile.”

Below are various details about Ben Miller, pulled from newspaper articles in the Duluth Public Library’s biography clip files:

  • He was born in Duluth and was a lifetime resident of the city.
  • His wife’s name was Grace.
  • He was a member of the Duluth Symphony Orchestra.
  • He worked for more than 35 years with Prudential Insurance Company of America, focused on estate planning and business insurance. After his 20th year of service with Prudential, in 1952, he was honored with a luncheon at the Duluth Hotel, at which he was presented a silver coffee-serving set.
  • He died Aug. 20, 1967 at the age of 73.

Below are various details about Abe Miller, pulled from newspaper articles in the Duluth Public Library’s biography clip files:

  • He was born in Duluth on Nov. 18, 1895. In grade school he took to the violin.
  • He graduated from Duluth Central High School in 1914. Dwight Hiestand, a geometry teacher at Central, organized Duluth’s first high school orchestra and Abe was in the front row.
  • He directed a five-piece orchestra at the Palace Theatre in Superior as a young man.
  • He worked at the Garrick Theatre in Duluth screening silent films and deciding what music the orchestra should play to accompany the films.
  • His wife’s name was Madge.
  • He was one of the first musicians in the Duluth Symphony Orchestra when it was founded in 1931. He played viola before becoming the orchestra’s manager in 1932.
  • He retired at the end of the symphony’s 1968-69 season.
  • He was the second president of the American Orchestra League, a national organization representing 1,200 orchestras in the United States.

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