John Z. Miller - (June 1867-October 4, 1958)
Born in Lancaster to Jacob A. Miller, (called a Doctor or Druggist in census records), and Maria M. Miller, he later moved with his family to Harrisburg, where he attended the public schools. He then received a degree in electrical engineering at Lehigh University. An inventor of early telephone equipment. Miller became head of a large telephone company in Erie, Pennsylvania. He began work on telephone devices, then a relatively new field. He took out a number of patents on devices such as switchboards, transmitters, selective ringing gadgets and automatic dialing equipment. He was general manager of the Best Telephone Manufacturing Co., Baltimore, in 1896, and a year later directed the formation of the Mutual Telephone Co. of Erie, Pennsylvania. Under his management, the Erie company eventually had 30,000 subscribers and was the first company in the east to install dial systems. He also was an elder of the First Presbyterian Church of Erie for 30 years.
After retiring from the telephone business in 1927, he began a career as an artist. He considered art his main vocation. His paintings were exhibited widely in the United States - New Orleans, St. Louis, Chicago, Dayton, Pittsburgh, Washington, Philadelphia, New York, and New England. He had oils hung in England, Czechoslovakia, and Argentina. Landscape paintings won him widespread acclaim.
While he made painting his career, archaeology was his hobby. He joined an expedition of the American School of Prehistoric Research. As a member of this expedition and on other trips abroad, Miller made diggings in Pompeii, Herculaneum, the Orient, Turkey and Europe. From these travels, Miller gathered a 700-piece collection of prehistoric articles – including necklaces, pottery and pipes. The collection was donated to Franklin and Marshall College's North Museum in 1957. His collection of Roman and Greek coins were also exhibited at the museum.
In 1938 he returned to Lancaster with his wife, W. Gertrude Kauffman Miller, who died in 1954. He was a member of the Cliosophical Club and the Lancaster County Art Association. He was a charter member of Phi Delta Theta at Lehigh.
In an interview in 1947, Miller said: “I don’t paint for the benefit of the critics in the gallery. My work is not turned out for criticism, but rather for pleasing those who look at it. Whether the viewer likes it or not is my criterion. If a thing is new or presented in a new way, that doesn’t necessarily mean it will appeal to people. A painting isn’t a mere statement of fact, but is instead a figure of imagination, pattern, composition, color quality.”
John Z. Miller is buried in Lancaster Cemetery, Lancaster, PA.
Written and submitted by Gary Hawbaker