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Harry A. Miller: the frenetic businessman?

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#1 carl s

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Posted 09 October 2012 - 03:57

There are many characterizations of Harry Miller as 'The Dreamer', having a somewhat schizoid relationship to the world and indeed secret ideas of reference that might today fall into the category of Mood Disorder; a mechanical engineering genius with little focus on the realities of the business side of things and whose early financial success was the result of intercession by caring acquaintances such as the one who convinced him to sell his Long Beach Av. enterprise at top dollar months before the stock market collapse.
Well I've been doing some readings and research associated with the Ira Vail 183 Miller (I believe the first generation 183) and the financing by Leach Biltwell Motor Co of Los Angeles. In doing so I came across this Motor Age article that hints at some of Harry's apparent wheeler dealer persona, the flip side of his secretive, non-engaging self.

Motor Age
June 2, 1921


Miller Engine Is Absorbed by Leach Biltwell

Miller Engine Is Absorbed by Leach Biltwell Policy of New Car Corporation Present Models Will Not be Changed LOS ANGELES May 28 The Biltwell Motor Co and the Miller Engine & Foundry Works of Los have been acquired in entirety by Leach Biltwell Motor Car Co which been incorporated with a capital $5,000,000 MA Leach president founder of the motor company president and chairman of the board directors of the new company At the same time it was that the Leach Biltwell Motor would begin 100 per cent production within three weeks and also would its own engine and parts heretofore have been purchased of Los Angeles Initial production expected to be 100 cars a month will continue during the balance of year The transaction involved more $2,000,000 as the Leach Biltwell Co s financial statement as of April showed assets of more than $1,500,000. The Miller Engine & Foundry was owned by Harry A Miller builder engines for automobile racers patents covering a new engine for the Leach car have been acquired by the corporation Mr Miller becomes second vice president and a director the new company and also will the building of the new engine John T Dye southern California dealer becomes first vice president of the new company Gray M Skidmore treasurer and James H Faircloth secretary The board of directors increased from seven to fifteen The policy of the new corporation not be changed and all present models of the Leach will continue.

Edited by carl s, 09 October 2012 - 04:06.


#2 Michael Ferner

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Posted 11 October 2012 - 18:23

Carl, as you may have guessed, I have researched Harry Miller's early career, too, and came away with the impression that he was an EXTREMELY ambitious young entrepreneur during the teens and early twenties. It was only after achieving prosperity during his heyday, especially the years following 1922, that the "lackadaisical" side of him showed through and he became absorbed by his "hobbies", now that he could afford to. Before that, he was keeping himself (and his company) busy with a long string of projects and customers, and was always on the lookout for the "big one", an executive job "in the industry". His was the typical American career of an industrious and clever "make-it-happen" persona. And he made it happen, and the world of autoracing is all the brighter for it! :)

#3 davegess

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Posted 11 October 2012 - 21:45

Have either of you gentleman come across any reference to Miller in connection with Ole Evinrude? Just wondering if the two ever crossed paths before Miller moved to L.A.

#4 carl s

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Posted 12 October 2012 - 03:47

Have either of you gentleman come across any reference to Miller in connection with Ole Evinrude? Just wondering if the two ever crossed paths before Miller moved to L.A.

Pretty sketchy info about them both working in the same shop and Ole 'taking note' of Harry's creation.



p. 2

“At seventeen Miller left Menomonie and moved in succession
to Minnesota, Idaho, Utah, and then back to
Menomonie. In 1895 he moved to Los Angeles, where he
worked in a bicycle shop and built custom racing parts for
factory bicycles. Like Barney Oldfield and many other early
racers and designers, Miller got his start in bicycle racing.
While in Los Angeles he met his future wife, Edna Lewis, and
they were soon married. Shortly thereafter, the couple moved
back to Menomonie to stay with Miller’s parents. In
Menomonie Miller took a job as foundry foreman at the
Globe Iron Works and in his spare time experimented with
motorcycles and with boats powered by outboard marine
engines. In the shop where Miller tinkered with outboard
engines, another machinist took note. He was Ole Evinrude,
the inventor of the outboard motor. Miller and Evinrude
worked in the same shop, but the
engine that Miller developed was
a four-cylinder, four-stroke,
while Evinrude’s was a onecylinder,
two-stroke engine. In
this early part of his career,
Miller exhibited what would
become a characteristic inability
to concentrate on any one project
a time. He always worked on
multiple projects and therefore
left many good ideas undeveloped.”