Mauler at Moosehead
Moosehead guide Charley Miller never met a camera he didn't like. Whether he was leading slugger Babe Ruth to the best fishing holes near Miller's camp at Harford's Point or, at shown here, helping boxer Jack Dempsey strap on a set of snowshoes, this Registered Maine Guide always seemed to have a cameraman nearby. Miller, kneeling in his vest, long-sleeved shirt, and wool cap, looks far more at home in the Maine woods than the "Manassa Mauler," whose thick overcoat and dapper fedora would hardly have been appropriate fashion for Greenville in winter.Attire was not the only thing amiss in this obviously staged photograph taken during the winter of 1936. Miller might have gotten away with wearing moccasins and wool socks, but Dempsey's dress shoes would've helped frostbite take the world heavyweight champ down quicker than "Fireman" Jim Flynn's fists did back in 1917. And while Miller billed himself as "the world's greatest outdoor cook" and would, in fact, go on to market a reflector oven for outdoor grilling, the campfire he has set up behind himself does not appear even to be lit. The cigar Dempsey holds might have helped warm his hand, but certainly not as well as the leather glove tossed onto the duffel bag at bottom right.
Ruse or not, Miller used photographs such as this one — as well as his association with other big-name celebrities such as Ted Williams, Arthur Godfrey, and Sally Rand — to market the state he so adored. Just two years before this photograph was taken boxer Primo Carnera had spent time in the North Woods with Miller, as had Gene Tunney, who beat Dempsey in 1926 and forced the infamous "Battle of the Long Count" that spelled the end of Dempsey's boxing career.
Born in Bangor on the Fourth of July in 1900, Miller had tried to start his own career as boxer "Irish Jack O'Brien" but left the ring after just one defeat. Instead he set up a training and conditioning camp at Moosehead, complementing the area's sporting treats with physical rigors such as splitting and stacking firewood. A veteran of World War I, Miller was tireless in his promotion of the Maine woods, even going so far as to walk the 250 miles from Bangor to a sportsmen's show in Boston wearing a "Moosehead Lake" sweatshirt. Through such well-publicized escapades and a few carefully composed photographs such as this one, Miller was able to promote himself and the state of Maine in a one-two punch.