January 21, 1838
|Died||August 27, 1907 (age 69)|
|Known for||Founder of Morris & Company|
|Children||5 including Edward Morris|
Ira Nelson Morris
|Relatives||Helen Swift Morris (daughter-in-law)|
Muriel Gardiner (granddaughter)
Ruth Morris Bakwin (granddaughter)
Abram M. Rothschild (son-in-law)
Morris was born Moritz Beisinger on January 21, 1838 to a Jewish family in Hechingen, Baden-Württemberg Germany. His family raised cattle. In 1848, his family's property was confiscated during the German revolutions of 1848–49 and young Moritz was sent to the United States to live with an uncle in New England. In the US, he changed his name to Nelson "Nels" Morris. At the age of 15, he left his uncle to work in a succession of jobs first as a coal miner in Pennsylvania and then on a canal boat which took him to Buffalo and then on a lake ship which took him to Michigan City, Indiana, and finally to Chicago in 1853 where he worked at a stockyard. Leveraging his skills learned by observing his father in southern Germany, he became very successful as a cattle trader which allowed him to buy a slaughterhouse and butcher shop; and eventually a lucrative relationship with the Union Army during the American Civil War. His business continued to grow and by the 1880s, Morris & Company had over 60 buildings in Chicago employing 3,700 and slaughtering 5,000 cattle, 10,000 pigs, 6,000 sheep, and 1,000 calves per day. At the time of his death, company sales were $100 million and had 100 branches throughout the country.
Morris served on various boards. In 1872, he was named as the first Jewish director at the First National Bank of Chicago; he also served as a director at the Drovers Bank which serviced the stockyards.
In 1863, he married Sarah Vogel (born 1852 in Chicago), who was also Jewish. They had five children: diplomat Ira Nelson Morris; Edward Morris (married to Helen Swift, daughter of Gustavus Swift, and father of Muriel Gardiner and Ruth Morris Bakwin); Herbert Morris (who died suddenly in 1898); Augusta Morris Rothschild (married to retailer Abram M. Rothschild); and Maude Morris Schwab (married to Henry C. Schwab). He died on August 27, 1907. His wife was killed on September 16, 1909 in an automobile accident at Fontainbleau, France.
- Roth, Nelson (Spring 2008). "Nelson Morris and "The Yards"" (PDF). Chicago Jewish Historical Society.
- Quindecennial Record - Yale University - Sheffield Scientific School. Class of 1895. Leopold Classic Library. March 23, 2017.
- "Divorce and Son to Mrs. Schwab - Daughter of Late Nelson Morris Says Husband Has Evil Temper" (PDF). Chicago Tribune. March 18, 1914.
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