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MSS 97-3

Memorabilia of Arthur J. Morris


Collection of some correspondence, diplomas, certificates, medal, photographs and other memorabilia that belonged to Arthur J. Morris, Class of 1901.

1884-1992 [Inclusive]
2 Cubic Feet

Scope & Contents

This collection contains a diplomas, certificates, photographs, newspaper clippings, a gold watch and a gold medal, a scrapbook and many other pieces of memorabilia that belonged to Arthur J. Morris, Class of 1901 and a benefactor of the University of Virginia Law Library.

Collection Description

    Biographical / Historical

    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 that 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. 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 and caught his son playing poker. His father 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 these 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.

    Immediate Source of Acquisition

    This collection was donated to the Law Library by the Virginia Morris Kincaid Foundation in February of 1997 and by Virginia Huschke, grandaughter of Mr. Morris in 2012.

itemGold Medal presented by the Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia to Arthur J. Morris, Best Debater, Washington Society, 1899-1900MSS 97-3, Box 1
Morris, Arthur J.
Morris, Arthur J. and Family
Morris, Arthur J. at UVA 1952
Oversized - Photograph of First Morris Plan Bankers Convention, 1919
itemGold Watch given to Arthur J. Morris after 18 years of service by Industrial Morris Plan Bank of Detroit, 1938MSS 97-3, Box 1
fileArthur J. Morris Memorabilia [including a congratulatory letter signed by President Dwight Eisenhower], 1942-1992MSS 97-3, Box 1
itemScrapbook. Testimonial Dinner to Arthur J. Morris, University Club, New York , 1948MSS 97-3, Box 1
itemBounded Correspondence "On the 50th Anniversary of Consumer Banking a grateful industry gives humble thanks to Arthur J. Morris its Founder and Champion", 1960MSS 97-3, Box 1
itemScrapbook Commemorating "The First Fifty Years" of the Morris Plan, 1966MSS 97-3, Box 1
itemBankers Security Life Insurance Society Hall of Fame Award and Stand, n.d.MSS 97-3, Box 2
itemArthur J. Morris 1987 Laureate Hall of Fame for Business Leadership Junior Achievement of Greater Hampton Roads, Inc, 1987MSS 97-3, Box 2
itemUniversity of Virginia trophy made by Baccarat , n.d.MSS 97-3, Box 2
itemUVA, The Raven Award, 1972MSS 97-3b, Box 3
itemArthur J. Morris, 1987 Laureate Hall of Fame for Business Leadership, Junior Achievement of Greater Hampton Roads, Inc, 1987MSS 97-3b, Box 3
itemBankers security Life Insurance Hall of Fame Trophy, n.d.MSS 97-3b, Box 3
itemThomas 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, n.d.MSS 97-3b, Box 3
itemPhi Beta Kappa Associates Fellowship in the Associates in recognition of Qualities and Achievnements, 1940MSS 97-3b, Box 3
itemMounted Newspaper Clipping: "Arthur J. Morris: Banker to the Masses", 1954MSS 97-3b, Box 3
itemThe Raven Award Certificate , 1964MSS 97-3b, Box 3
itemUniversity of Virginia Law School Distinguished Law Alumnus, Eminent Member of the Law School Association's Council, Benefactor of the Law Library, 1969MSS 97-3b, Box 3
itemMounted Newspaper Clipping: "Freedom from Control Urged Consumer Credit" , 1969MSS 97-3b, Box 3
itemMounted Clipping: "The Costumer ...the most important person in this bank". The Morris Plan Industrial Bank of New York , n.d.MSS 97-3b, Box 3
itemTwo 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, n.d.MSS 97-3b, Box 3
itemIAC [Industrial Acceptance Corporation Limited] Resolution recognizing Arthur J. Morris as "The Founder" and "The Father of Consumer Credit", 1969MSS 97-3b, Box 3
itemCertificate of Appreciation of The Washington International Horse Show Association, Ltd , 1974MSS 97-3b, Box 3
itemFramed Version of "The Crow" by Arthur J. Morris. A Parody on "The Raven" by Edgar Allan Poe, n.d.MSS 97-3b, Box 3
itemCommittee of One Thousand, Freedom Foundation at Valley Forge, n.d.MSS 97-3b, Box 3
itemSchultz, Leslie P.: Bankers Security Life Insurance Society Corporate History 1917-1990 , 1989MSS 97-3b, Box 3
itemPoe, Edgar Allan, The Raven, New York, Harper & Brothers, Publishers, 1884. Illustrated by Gustave Dore, 1884MSS 97-3b, Box 3
itemUniversity of Virginia Certificate of Bachelor of Law , 1901, June 12MSS 97-3b, Box 3
itemCertificate that licensed Arthur J. Morris as an Attorney and Counselor at Law , 1901, Sep. 6MSS 97-3b, Box 3
itemSilver 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 , 1948MSS 97-3b, Box 3
seriesAddendum to the Arthur J. Morrris Collection [a]
seriesAddendum to the Arthur J. Morris Collection [b]
seriesAddendum to the Arthur J. Morris Collection