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E.M. Miller & Co.; Hildebrand & Amen Co.
Weaver & Miller, 1856-1857; E.M. Miller & Company, 1857-1930; Quincy, Illinois
Associated Builders
Miller-Quincy; Hildebrand & Amen Company

Emerson M. Miller was born on December 5, 1836 in Middlefield, Connecticut. His family later relocated to Springfield, Massachusetts where he attended public school. After graduating from high school he joined his brother Sereno D. Miller at New Haven, Connecticut where he learned the coachbuilding trade as an apprentice.

At the age of 21 Miller embarked on a westward journey financed by working short stints at various coachbuilders located along the way. After a brief stay in Kansas City, Missouri he boarded a Missouri River steamer in May of 1856 and traveled to Quincy, Illinois where he took a job with J.H. Weaver, proprietor of a carriage and wagon repair shop located at 18 S. Sixth St. After six months on the job he entered into a partnership with Weaver under the style of Weaver & Miller. Ninety days later a misunderstanding with his partner prompted Miller to buy him out and until its dissolution in 1930, the business was conducted as E.M. Miller & Company.

Emerson’s brother, Sereno, was an early investor in the firm and although he remained a resident of New Haven, Connecticut, he played an active part in the firm’s financial affairs. E.M. Miller soon relocated to a much larger four-story structure located down the street at 132 South Sixth Ave. Early in their history Miller established a South and Central American sales network, enabling them to become one of the largest carriage manufactories in the Midwest with between 75 and 150 hands manufacturing landaus, broughams, victories hotel buses and hearses.

On Dec. 27, 1873, the Denison Daily News (Denison, Texas) published the following ad:

“Gov. L. S. Owings has just received over M. K. T. (Katy) Railroad, five elegant single buggies and one two-seat barouche, for the accommodation of the traveling public. They are all gotten up in the latest style, with patent leather tops, etc., and are highly ornamental. The Governor has also purchased new harness and can now furnish a turn-out unsurpassed in the state. These buggies are from the celebrated manufacturers, E. M. Miller and Co., of Quincy, Illinois and are splendid examples of their work.”

The September, 1874 issue of the Hub included the following:

"E. M. Miller & Co.'s Works, Quincy, Illinois

“Messrs. E. M. Miller & Co. have, in Quincy, Illinois, one of the largest and most prominent carriage-factories in the West, and although their buildings are but partially new, and not so convenient, perhaps, in their arrangement as if they had been put up at one time, the shops are well worthy of a full description.

“The firm was formed eighteen years ago. At the time of our visit they employed 65 men, but since then they have more than doubled this force, reporting at this time a total of 135 hands, with 20 fires running. The variety of work built by them is very considerable, and includes many patterns of open and top buggies, four and six-passenger phaetons and Rockaways, sulkies and skeleton wagons, democrats and express work of all kinds, sewing-machine wagons (now quite a specialty), and omnibuses and hearses.

“The total number of vehicles built by them during the year 1873 was twelve hundred, and this number is still more surprising when we know that it included, besides other heavy work, 40 hearses and 50 omnibuses. The firm has a capital of $100,000. 'The factory occupies four buildings, as shown in the cut accompanying....

“Building A, the first to the left, in the accompanying; illustration, fronts on Sixth-street. It is of brick, four stories high besides basement, and is occupied as follows: The entire basement, 60 x 92 feet, is used as a smith-shop for light work, for which purpose it is well adapted, being well lighted and ventilated. Twelve forges are run at present, under the superintendence of Mr. J. B. Fox, the foreman. There are two other smith-shops in the establishment, for heavy work and jobbing, which will be mentioned further on.     

“The ground floor of this new brick building occupied by the wood-shop, for bodies and carriage parts, and contains 16 benches. On the floor above are three rooms-one for general woodwork, the second for the bodies and hearses, and the other for rough-stuffing light bodies. The wood-shop is superintended by Mr. W. H. Houck. In the upper story is a repository for omnibuses, hearses, and general storage. A hatchway extends to this floor from the basement. Between this building and the next shop is the lumber-yard.     

“Building B, or the third from the left, fronting also on Sixth-street, measures 60 x 55 feet, and is four stories high, besides the basement. In the latter is a second smith­shop, which is devoted exclusively to ironing heavy work. Four fires are now in use in this department. The rear of this basement is used for the storage of coal and lumber. On the first floor of the same building are the main office, the stock­room, and a "department for boxing and fitting up."

“The second floor is divided into two sections, one being used for coloring bodies, and the other for cleaning and leading carriage-parts. The third floor includes rooms for coloring and varnishing carriage-parts and finishing them, and one for rubbing down the bodies in their varnish coats. The finishing varnish-room for bodies is in the fourth story, together with a minor repository and fitting-up room. The painting department is under charge of Mr. I.C. Camel. A hatchway and single stairway connect the different floors of this building.

“The small building marked C is 25 x 55 feet, and two stories high, the first floor being occupied by the jobbing smith-shop repairs, with four fires; and in the second floor is the trimming-shop, superintended by Mr. I. Wright.

“Building D, to the right, formerly the so-called "National Hall," measuring 50 x 120 feet, and 22 feet between the ceilings, is used as the grand repository for new work, and here, at the time we visited, we were shown a collection of 125 vehicles, embracing, we think, a larger variety of styles and patterns than we have ever seen in any private repository. The repository connects with Building B by a bridge at the fourth story. The harness-room is in the same building.

On a late 1870s visit to Quincy, the W.W. Cole Circus commissioned Miller to update their rolling stock with a number of new circus wagons which were ready when they returned the following season. 

The August 22, 1890 issue of the Ava Advertiser, Jackson County, Illinois reported:

“At Quincy, the other morning, while lowering a carriage on a large elevator in E.M. Miller & Co.'s carriage shop, the cable broke, and Mr. Miller, Joseph Seidell, the foreman of the factory, and William Bandanner, one of the workmen, were precipitated to the cellar, a distance of thirty feet. Seidell and Bandanner escaped with slight injuries, but Mr. Miller was very seriously if not fatally hurt, receiving a broken leg and an injury of the spine.”

Emerson eventually recovered from his injuries and in 1899 his brother, Sereno D. Miller, sold his share in the firm to E.K. Strong. Under Strong, Miller began to specialize in funeral vehicles although their popular line of pleasure vehicles continued to be offered into the mid-teens.

The May 7, 1916 issue of the Waterloo Times-Tribune (Waterloo, Iowa) included a photo-feature depicting a Cadillac “8” Funeral Cortege:

“While motor driven vehicles have slowly bud steadily replaced the horse in practically every line of transportation service, the funeral cortege, surrounded by its time-honored customs and traditions, clung to the old ideas with a persistency which balked, for a time, the advance of motor progress.

“Of late the motor funeral cortege has gained a foothold in the cities and the idea is being gradually adopted elsewhere. The horse-drawn hearse and its train of horse-drawn vehicle will soon go the way of the rest of the horse-driven equipage and in its place will move the auto cortege.

“The above picture of a Cadillac “8” funeral cortege marks the advance of the motor idea in Waterloo.

“The new hearse, one of the first and finest in the state was delivered to the Morris Motor Car company early last week for the Bradley & Wescott livery.

“The hearse represents an investment of about $5,000. The body was built by the E.M. Miller company of Quincy, Ill., and was mounted on a Cadillac chassis at the Cadillac factory in Detroit. The car is equipped with an 8 cylinder motor and is finished in a battleship gray with mahogany finish on the interior. The picture above shows a Cadillac “8” closed car for the minister, the hearse and a Cadillac “8” seven-passenger closed car for the pallbearers. The motor hears and its train of auto equipage was used last week in Waterloo for the first time.”

E.M. Miller offered a number of traditional-looking funeral vehicles starting in 1914. They preferred to use Dodge chassis but as indicated above, would mount their coaches on any customer-supplied chassis. Coaches built by E.M. Miller were referred to as Miller-Quincy coaches by the trade, so they wouldn't be confused with vehicles produced by Bellefontaine, Ohio's A.J. Miller Co.

In 1921 Miller offered their customers the choice of their own assembled Continental-equipped six-cylinder chassis or one of their own choosing, typically Cadillac, Dodge or Reo. A number of limousines were offered with room for 7 passengers and either 6 or 8 windows per side, depending on the wheelbase and chassis selected.

Offered through 1924, the Miller-Quincy sedans and limousines rode on their assembled 130” wheelbase chassis and were powered by a 50hp Continental 8R 6-cylinder engine with disc wheels as standard equipment.

Miller’s catalog showed both rear and side-loading combination coaches that could be converted for use as an ambulance, funeral coach, or mourner's limousine in a matter of minutes. Their 8-column carved-panel funeral coach was still available in either classical black or two-tone silver or gray.

Their 1922 catalog included an unusual all-white 4-column glass-paneled rear-entry ambulance with matching white wheel discs and spare-tire carrier that looked like an aquarium on wheels.  Their 1923 catalog showed a stylish limousine-style ambulance with a stained glass cross fitted inside a beautiful leaded-glass side window as well as a nice-looking contrasting-colored carved panel 8-column hearse. 

The limousine-style professional car was prominently featured in the 1924 E.M. Miller catalog and their assembled chassis now included 4-wheel hydraulic brakes along with a Continental six-cylinder engine.  The attractive Miller coaches could be ordered on the pricier Cadillac V8 chassis as well and could be ordered in side or rear-loading versions. Other chassis available in the mid-to-late 1920s included Chrysler, Dodge, Hudson, Lincoln and Velie.

The October 29, 1925 issue of the Waterloo Evening Courier (Waterloo, Iowa) carried the following Associated Press feature:

“Hearse Styles Change To Resemble Limousine

“Quincy, Ill., Oct 29 - AP – Man’s last earthly ride had undergone some style changes in recent years. The ornate hearse is out of date and most citizens now go to their final rest in a vehicle not greatly different from the family automobile.

“One of the country’s largest hearse makers, located here, manufactures a plain coach resembling a limousine but with the door in the rear. Except for the vehicles sent to Latin American countries and a few to large cities having numerous foreign residents, this is the approved type of funeral carriage for Americans of all classes.

“This firm ships to Mexico, Cuba and South America. The Mexican wants his funeral carriage burnished with gold, lined with purple, and painted with light grays. The Cuban like the full ornamentation, the angel figures, the drapery, a platform for the casket, with a canopy above supported by winged seraphs.

“The horse-drawn hearse was discarded about 15 years ago. The hearse manufacturers build the bodies and mount them on various makes of automobiles.”

The very popular landau or leather-back treatment appeared on Miller's most expensive funeral coaches from 1925-1927 and included nickel-plated landau bars, an oval window and stylish pull-down blinds in all of the casket compartment windows. 

Like many other small builders, E.M. Miller coaches of 1927-1929 were still on the square side, lacking the complex curves and long & low look campaigned by the industry's style leaders.

For 1927 they offered an additional leather-back landau roof treatment. Customers had the choice of a small landau bar, small oval window combination or a much larger landau bar with a large rounded corner rear quarter window. The landau bar and window treatment was also available without the padded roof and could be finished in any color desired. Their old-fashioned 4-column glass-sided funeral coaches and invalid cars continued to be advertised, yet their time had passed.

In 1930 Autobody reported that E.M. Miller & Co. had been dissolved and that two of the firm’s employees, J.E. Hildebrand and Leo F. Amen had formed the Hildebrand & Amen Co. to:

“take over the body-repairing and -rebuilding business that was conducted by the E.M. Miller Co. in connection with the latter company’s building of automobile hearses and ambulances.”

The new partners relocated to 812-814 Maine Street, Quincy, and hired some of Miller’s most experienced mechanics. While at Miller J.E. Hildebrand was in charge of the repair and rebuilding department and Leo F. Amen had been his longtime assistant.

© 2004 Mark Theobald - with special thanks to Thomas A. McPherson






William Herzog Collins, Cicero F. Perry & John Tillson - Past and Present Adams County, Illinois (pub. 1905)

Progress In Quincy - Hub June 1886 issue

Messrs. E. M. Miller & Co. - Hub May 1886 issue

A Big Finn. Vehicle Dealer. December 15, 1902 issue

Carl Landrum - Carriage Trade: Historical Sketches of Quincy, Illinois

Carl Landrum - A Century Ago In Quincy Many Made Wagons, Carriages. Quincy Herald-Whig, July 9, 1967

Carl Landrum - From Quincy's Past: E. M. Miller Made Fine Vehicles, Quincy Herald-Whig, December 14, 1969

Carl Landrum - From Quincy's Past: The Silver State Splurged Here, Quincy Herald-Whig, June 22, 1980

Thomas A. McPherson - American Funeral Cars & Ambulances Since 1900

Carriage Museum of America - Horse-Drawn Funeral Vehicles: 19th Century Funerals

The Professional Car (Quarterly Journal of the Professional Car Society)

Gregg D. Merksamer - Professional Cars: Ambulances, Funeral Cars and Flower Cars

Carriage Museum of America -  Horse Drawn - Military, Civilian, Veterinary - Ambulances

Walt McCall & Tom McPherson - Classic American Ambulances 1900-1979: Photo Archive

Walt McCall & Tom McPherson - Classic American Funeral Vehicles 1900-1980 Photo Archive

Walter M. P. McCall - The American Ambulance 1900-2002

Walter M.P. McCall - American Funeral Vehicles 1883-2003

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