Collection Summary

Creator: Morris, Arthur J.
Title: Memorabilia of Arthur J. Morris
Accession: MSS 97-3
Parent Collection: Addendum to the Arthur J. Morrris Collection [b]
Description: 23 items
Location: Special Collections
Photograph Collection: View 2 digitized photographs
Digitized Content: 2 objects
Use Restrictions: There are no restrictions.

Collection Description & Arrangement

This collection of memorabilia was given to the library over a period of years by his daughter Virginia Morris Kincaid and his granddaughter Virginia Huschke.

Biographical & Historical Information


Arthur J. Morris was born in North Carolina in 1881, but grew up in Norfolk, Virginia.  His father, a strict Presbyterian, ran a general store for farmers.  At sixteen, Arthur suffered an Achilles tendon injury during football practice and spent the next 29 months in a wheelchair, despite numerous operations on his heel.  Through much trial and error, he invented a brace which enabled him to walk.In the fall of 1898 Morris entered the University of Virginia where he studied English literature, moral philosophy, and economics.  Having done previous work at a preparatory school, he received his B.A. degree in June, 1899.  That school year he was awarded a handsome gold medal for his debating skills and the Phi Beta Kappa key for academic excellence.


For the next two years he studied law.  In his final year at the University, his father paid an unannounced visit to Charlottesville, caught the son playing poker, and withdrew further financial assistance for the young man's education.  Morris found odd jobs in order to stay in school until his mother stepped in and agreed to support him through his law graduation in June, 1901.  He returned to his hometown to begin practicing law.


Early in his career Morris encountered a number of clients who lacked the collateral they needed to borrow money from banks. If these wage earners could not borrow from family members, they were at the mercy of pawnbrokers or loan sharks. Morris, a firm believer in the solid character and dignity of the working class, loaned his own money to the clients. The experience made him cognizant of the need for a lending institution for middle and lower income workers.  He applied to the Virginia Corporation Commission for a charter for such a bank, and received the following reply from its chairman, Judge Robert R. Prentiss:

Dear Arthur: I have carefully considered your application for a charter for your hybrid and mongrel institution.  Frankly, I don't know what it is.  It isn't a savings bank; it isn't a state or national bank; it isn't a charity. It isn't anything I ever heard of before.  Its principles seem sound however, and its purpose admirable.  But the real reason that I am going to grant a charter is because I believe in you.

On April 1, 1910, with $20,000 of his own and a few associates' funds, Morris opened the Morris Plan Bank.  Soon there were eleven of these banks enabling the average American, with the "collateral" of earning power and good character, to borrow in order to buy a house, finance a car, or carry the family through a catastrophic illness.  Morris found that there were few defaults because most borrowers were thrifty and eager to be debt-free.


It took some effort to convince the big financiers in New York to allow the Morris Plan to go nationwide.  Morris later recalled the arguments he employed:

I told them simply that America's strength was in mass production and the only way to insure mass production was mass consumption.  And, like night follows day, we can't have mass consumption without mass credit.  And, what's more, mass credit guarantees mass employment.  That got them!  The only thing I left out, but since have learned was that mass credit would create a standard of living among Americans unequaled anywhere in the world.


Soon the Morris Plan was adopted by countless other banks.   In 1917 he branched out and established credit life insurance.


In his later years, Morris was frequently honored for his enormous impact on life in twentieth‑century America. His simple idea of installment credit, coupled with his faith in the average citizen, helped to improve the standard of living for millions.  And from the time of his graduation Morris maintained close ties with his alma mater from which he received many awards of recognition and appreciation. Near the end of his life he gave a generous donation toward the construction of the law library in the new building at North Grounds. The library, bearing his name, opened in 1974, the year after Morris's death.

Acquisition Information

Date Received 1997
Donor Information This collection was donated to the Law Library by the Virginia Morris Kincaid Foundation in February of 1997.

Content List

Box 1:                 

  • 1899-1900; Gold Medal presented by the Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia to Arthur J. Morris, Best Debater, Washington Society
  • 1938; Gold Watch given to Arthur J. Morris after 18 years of service by Industrial Morris Plan Bank of Detroit
  • 1942-1992; Arthur J. Morris Memorabilia [including a congratulatory letter signed by President Dwight Eisenhower]
  • 1948; Scrapbook.  Testimonial Dinner to Arthur J. Morris, University Club, New York
  • 1960; Bounded Correspondence "On the 50th Anniversary of Consumer Banking a grateful industry gives humble thanks to Arthur J. Morris its Founder and Champion"
  • 1966; Scrapbook Commemorating "The First Fifty Years" of the Morris Plan

Box 2:                 

  • 1972; UVA, The Raven Award
  • 1987; Arthur J. Morris, 1987 Laureate Hall of Fame for Business Leadership, Junior Achievement of Greater Hampton Roads, Inc.
  • n.d.; Bankers security Life Insurance Hall of Fame Trophy
  • n.d.; Thomas Jefferson Society of Patriarchs given by the Alumni Association of UVA in recognition of more than fifty years of service as son active alumnus of the University.
  • 1940; Phi Beta Kappa Associates Fellowship in the Associates in recognition of Qualities and Achievnements
  • 1954; Mounted Newspaper Clipping: "Arthur J. Morris: Banker to the Masses"
  • 1964; The Raven Award Certificate
  • 1969; University of Virginia Law School Distinguished  Law ALumnus, Eminent Member of the Law School Association's Council, Benefactor of the Law Library
  • 1969; Mounted Newspaper Clipping: "Freedom from Control Urged Consumer Credit"
  • n.d.; Mounted Clipping:  "The Costumer ...the most important person in this bank".  The Morris Plan Industrial Bank of New York
  • n.d.; Two Copper Plaques Presented by American Industrial Bankers Association to Arthur J. Morris Founder  of Morris Plan Banks, for his pioneering in the field of Consumer Instalment Credit
  • 1969; IAC [Industrial Acceptance Corporation Limited] Resolution recognizing Arthur J. Morris as "The Founder" and "The Father of Consumer Credit"
  • 1974; Certificate of Appreciation of The Washington International Horse Show Association, Ltd.
  • n.d.; Framed Version of "The Crow" by Arthur J. Morris.  A Parody on "The Raven" by Edgar Allan Poe
  • n.d.; Committee of One Thousand, Freedom Foundation at Valley Forge
  • 1989; Schultz, Leslie P.: Bankers Security Life Insurance Society Corporate History 1917-1990  [2 copies]
  • 1884; Poe, Edgar Allan, The Raven, New York, Harper & Brothers, Publishers, 1884.  Illustrated by Gustave Dore
  • 1901, June 12; University of Virginia Certificate of Bachelor of Law.  
  • 1901, Sep. 6; Certificate that licensed Arthur J. Morris as an Attorney and Counselor at Law  
  • 1948;  Silver Tray Presented at the Testimonial Dinner given by friends and admirers in recognition for his "contribution to the American way of life and the National Economy through the funding of the Morris Plan of Consumer Banking", Feb. 23, 1948  [Oversized.  Placed in Map Cabinet]


  • 1940-1960?; 23 snapshots and some portraits of Arthur J. Morris with unidentified people
  • 1948; Morris Testimonial Dinner at the International Club, New York  [Oversized]
  • 1952; Arthur J. Morris addressing student body of School of Consumer Banking at opening of first resident session August 11, 1952 at University of Virginia

Associated People

Use Policy

Access There are no restrictions.
Use Restrictions There are no restrictions.
Preferred Citation
Unless otherwise stated, digital materials in our collections are available for use under a Creative Commons BY 4.0 License (CC-BY-4.0). For Use and Citation guidelines, see Special Collections Use Policy.