A young woman leans against a painted brick wall, her back straight and her hair dark hair pulled into a knot at the top of her head. She holds a baby in her arms wrapped snugly in a knitted blanket. The baby’s left hand is a blur of motion; despite his calm expression he was unable to keep still for the photograph. Who was this woman with the timid smile? And who was this chubby cheeked child?
We know who this woman was partly because her husband, Marriott C. Morris, decided to take her photograph. Her name was Jane Rhoads Morris and the baby is probably one of her sons, Elliston Perot Morris or Marriott C. Morris Jr. She married Morris in 1897, but her husband had been taking photographs long before then.
Marriott C. Morris was a member of a prominent Philadelphia Quaker family who took his first photographs during his freshman year at Haverford College. Morris continued to document his life through photographs of his large extended family and network of friends, his Germantown neighborhood and his many travels across the East Coast and even Bermuda. One of his favorite subjects was the Morris family home Avocado, located in Sea Girt, New Jersey.
Thanks to a generous donation made by Marriott C. Morris’s grandchildren David Marriott Morris, Eleanor Rhoads Morris Cox and William Perot Morris in memory of Marriott Canby Morris, the Library Company will be able to share these photographs with a wide audience. Through a process of research, digitization and publication, people will be able to experience these photographs through the Library Company’s blog, twitter feed and an upcoming online exhibition. As the Assistant Project Manager for this collection it is my hope that these photographs will not be seen simply as images of nameless faces but as a record of lives well lived, as a capsule of what Morris loved and wanted to remember. Even more, these photographs provide a window into the past, a snapshot of a time and a place, that give us a glimpse of everyday life in late 19th century Philadelphia. There is a lot to learn from these photographs and I’m excited to share the Marriott C. Morris Photograph Collection with you.
Alison Van Denend, Assistant Project Manager
Marriott C. Morris Photograph Collection