News

Author coming to Quincy to find out more about J.H. Miller Co.

Military figurines from the J.H. Miller Co. (Submitted Photo)
Posted: Apr. 19, 2013 8:47 am Updated: May. 3, 2013 10:15 am

By DON O'BRIEN
Herald-Whig Staff Writer

Ken Glennon never had to wonder about what he was going to spend his 25-cents-a-week allowance on when he was a kid. He had a collection of military figures to complete.

"They were 19 cents each," he said. "It was a real adventure to go to the dime store and see what new figurine I might get."

Glennon, now 71, eventually got all of the figurines, which were scale models of those who fought in World War II and the Korean War. Like most men his age, those precious figures eventually were passed along or just thrown out. Glennon's mother gave his collection to an uncle who eventually passed them out to Glennon's cousins.

Though they were gone, the figurines weren't forgotten. Glennon started a quest to rebuild the collection and dug deep into their background. He found that the figurines now cost a lot more than 19 cents. He also found out that they were made by the J.H. Miller Co., which operated out of 225 Hampshire in Quincy from 1941 through 1959.

Glennon is writing a book about Miller's business. He hopes to have "Dimestore Dynasty of J.H. Miller" finished this fall. To get more information about Miller and the Quincy operation, Glennon is visiting the Gem City this weekend. He will make a presentation at 1 p.m. Saturday at the Quincy Public Library in the South Study Room, showing a PowerPoint presentation of Miller collectibles that he has as well as bringing some of the figurines for people to see.

"He was the Henry Ford of novelty figures," Glennon said of Miller. "He set up a production line. His products wound up in every dimestore in America."

Miller's company also produced nativity pieces, Halloween and Easter figurines, dinosaurs and jungle animals. Glennon said Miller's company also was famous for its production of alien figures.

Glennon has done exhaustive research on Miller's operation. The company started in Chicago in the late 1930s before Miller moved his family and his business to Quincy. Glennon said that Miller's father was an executive with Kresge, the forerunner of Kmart. Miller's father helped him get his product put on Kresge's shelves, Glennon said.

"It's Americana from an era when every town had a dime store on Main Street, and (Miller) was in all of them," Glennon said.

Glennon has rebuilt his collection, but he had to shell out more than the 19 cents per piece than he did when he was a kid. He said that Miller pieces go for as little $5 and as much as $400.

Glennon hopes to hear stories of the Miller factory during his trip.

"There are numerous people in Quincy who have first-hand experience," he said. "They may have worked in the plant or had a relative who did. I'm going to invite anyone who is there who would like to contribute. I'll take a photo of their stuff, encapsulate their story and possibly integrate it in the book."

-- dobrien@whig.com/221-3370