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Nelson Morris (January 21, 1838 – August 27, 1907) was the founder of Morris & Company, one of the three main meat-packing companies in Chicago along with Armour & Company and Swift & Company.

Nelson Morris
Moritz Beisinger

January 21, 1838
DiedAugust 27, 1907 (age 69)
Known forFounder of Morris & Company
Spouse(s)Sarah Vogel
Children5 including Edward Morris
Ira Nelson Morris
RelativesHelen 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.[1] His family raised cattle.[1] 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.[1] In the US, he changed his name to Nelson "Nels" Morris.[1] 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.[1] 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.[1] 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.[1] At the time of his death, company sales were $100 million and had 100 branches throughout the country.[1]

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.[1]

Personal lifeEdit

In 1863, he married Sarah Vogel (born 1852 in Chicago), who was also Jewish.[1][2] 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).[1] He died on August 27, 1907.[1][3] His wife was killed on September 16, 1909 in an automobile accident at Fontainbleau, France.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Roth, Nelson (Spring 2008). "Nelson Morris and "The Yards"" (PDF). Chicago Jewish Historical Society.
  2. ^ Quindecennial Record - Yale University - Sheffield Scientific School. Class of 1895. Leopold Classic Library. March 23, 2017.
  3. ^ "Divorce and Son to Mrs. Schwab - Daughter of Late Nelson Morris Says Husband Has Evil Temper" (PDF). Chicago Tribune. March 18, 1914.