Morris Morrison was born in 1872 in Chaniya, Russian Poland (near Brest-Litovsk) to Moishe Velvel, a miller, and Shayna Chaya (Jennie Lenn), a seamstress and midwife. Three weeks before Morrison was born, Moishe died in a mill accident, leaving Shayna a widow with three children- an older sister and brother, Raphael, along with baby Morris, then known as Moshe or Maishe, after his deceased father. After a difficult life in Chaniya,
Morrison immigrated to the United States around 1889. Upon arrival, he changed his name from Moshe to Morris Lenn Morrison, modeled on his Hebrew name of Moshe ben Moshe (Moshe son of Moshe) with his mother’s maiden name as his middle name. This combination of Old and New World was typical of Morrison. A classically trained Eastern European yeshiva student beginning with cheder at age four, he easily navigated and referenced typical Judaic texts like Torah, Talmud, Pirkei Avot (Ethics/Chapters of the Fathers) and Rambam (Maimonides) throughout his life, while also investing himself in the American Jewish community and working in his own insurance firm.
Morrison was a charitable man, donating to multiple organizations throughout his life, both in Boston and across the country. These 1935 and 1938 letters to Morrison speak about the good works of the Los Angeles Sanatorium (now City of Hope National Medical Center) and thank Mr. Morrison for his donation.
Morrison was an avid record keeper, compiling two separate, extremely detailed memoirs. The first Shtetl Tintypes (seen above) dealt with his early life in Russian Poland until his move to America. The second contains a detailed account of his political doings in Boston as recorded and edited by his sons Robert and Sidney. He also kept a book of clippings from many Boston area newspapers, both English and Yiddish. His topic of interest was apparently the political life in Boston, particularly when it pertained to the Jews of Boston. In May of 1910, there are multiple pages devoted to his own appointment by Mayor John Fitzgerald as public assessor of the City of Boston.
Morrison was not merely an appointee and collector of political news. In
1903, he became one of thirty delegates for Ward Eight of Boston to the Democratic county convention, earning 1,261 votes. In 1906, he ran again and became the sixth of eleven delegates, with 1,904 votes. By the 1910 election, he sought to become a Democratic representative in the General Court for the 21st district of Boston. He lost the position to James T. Kenney by 96 votes, but continued to keep track of Boston’s political life and especially any political appointments of area Jews.
He moved to Florida and remained involved with the Jewish community there before returning to live with his wife, Etta, in Brookline. She died in 1948, and Morris followed slightly over a year later. His children remembered him as a constantly giving, uncomplaining and invested member of their family and community.