Jump to Content

Collection Guide
Collection Title:
Collection Number:
Get Items:
Robert Watt Miller Papers
988.70  
View entire collection guide What's This?
PDF (55.88 Kb) HTML
Search this collection
Collection Overview
 
Table of contents What's This?
Description
Robert Watt Miller (1899-1970) was a noted San Francisco industrialist and civic leader. He attended early performances of the San Francisco Opera Company and became a director of the San Francisco Opera Association in 1932. In 1937, he was elected President and held this post until 1942, when he entered the Army Air Forces. He resumed his office as President in 1951 and remained in this role through 1966. During this time, Miller oversaw fundraising campaigns, helped develop a plan to raise the company to international stature, handled labor negotiations, and contributed informal artistic advice. Miller was also a leading industrialist, headed the Pacific Lighting Company, and served on the boards of the San Francisco Symphony and the De Young Museum. He remained active in the San Francisco Opera Association after his retirement from the presidency, serving as chairman of the board from 1967 until his death in 1970. This collection documents Miller’s civic activities as president of the San Francisco Opera Association and as a board member of the San Francisco Symphony and the De Young Museum, including minutes, reports, budgets, correspondence and clippings, as well as several photo albums documenting SFO seasons. The papers also include one file of miscellaneous materials relating to Miller’s management of the Pacific Lighting Corporation.
Background
Robert Watt Miller (1899-1970) was born in San Francisco to a family with a distinguished history of involvement in the city’s development and business growth. Miller continued this tradition by becoming a noted industrialist and civic leader. As a child, Miller developed a keen interest in musical theater after seeing a production of “Lucia di Lammermoor” at the Cort Theater on Ellis Street in 1912. He attended early performances of the San Francisco Opera Company and became a director of the San Francisco Opera Association in 1932. In 1937, he was elected President and held this post until 1942, when he entered the Army Air Forces. He resumed his office as President in 1951 and remained in this role through 1966. Along with overseeing fundraising campaigns for the opera, Miller worked closely with Gaetano Merola and Kurt Herbert Adler in developing a plan to raise the company to international stature. He also contributed a great deal of informal artistic advice during rehearsals through careful readings of librettos and detailed discussions with stagehands. Miller was tasked with raising funds which would allow the company to lengthen its seasons, offset its deficit, and expand its repertoire. Through working with private, corporate, and government funders, Miller helped to continually raise the company’s annual base of support. Miller also handled labor negotiations, such as the dispute between the Opera Association and the musician’s union which almost let to the cancellation of the 1964 season. In addition to working tirelessly for the opera, Miller was a leading industrialist and headed the Pacific Lighting Company. He also served on the boards of the San Francisco Symphony and the De Young Museum. He remained active in the San Francisco Opera Association after his retirement from the presidency, serving as chairman of the board from 1967 until his death in 1970.
Extent
5 Boxes. 8 linear feet.
Restrictions
Reproduction of these materials can occur only if the copying falls within the provisions of the doctrine of fair use. Copyright varies by item.
Availability
Certain series within the collection are restricted for 75 years (fundraising, reports, etc.).