Shaw, Howard van Doren, 1869-1926

Alternative names
Birth 1869-05-07
Death 1926-05-07

Biographical notes:

Edward Morris was President of Morris & Company, one of the three main meat-packing companies in Chicago at a time when that city was known as the meatpacking capital of the world. Upon his death, Morris was said to have amassed a personal fortune of $40 million.

Morris was born in Chicago on October 1, 1866. His father, Nelson Morris, founded Morris & Co. Edward was educated in Chicago public schools, and his natural aptitude and interest in his father's business led him to begin spending time there at age 14. In 1890, Morris married Helen Swift, a daughter of one of his two main competitors. The couple had four children, Nelson II, Edward, Jr., Ruth, and Muriel. Muriel Morris Gardner later became a renowned psychiatrist.

Edward Morris' professional interests extended beyond meatpacking. He was the largest individual stockholder in several of Chicago's largest financial institutions. He was a director of the First National bank, the National Livestock Bank, and the National Packing Company. He also personally managed the finances of Morris & Company.

A shrewd businessman, Morris cooperated with his two main competitors, Armour and Swift, to their mutual benefit. The three began proceedings around the turn of the century to combine their assets and form the National Packing Company. Muckraker Charles Edward Russell's 1905 book on the existence of a "beef trust," The Greatest Trust in the World, spurred the federal government to begin antitrust proceedings. Morris and his colleagues were not indicted on antitrust charges, but they voluntarily dissolved the National Packing Company in 1912. Morris and his employees clashed on issues of wages and working conditions, but at the time of his funeral, the Morris family hosted a two-hour reception for company employees in their home.

Morris died in 1913 after a prolonged battle with kidney disease. In 1917 his widow Helen married Francis Nielson, a journalist, and in 1920 she helped to fund Nielson’s short-lived publication, The Freeman. Helen also became a significant donor to the University of Chicago Library.

The architect of the Edward Morris House was Howard Van Doren Shaw. Shaw designed twenty-one homes in the Hyde Park and Kenwood areas. A native of Chicago's South Side, Shaw was born in 1869. He returned to his hometown after attending Yale and M.I.T. and traveling to Europe. Many critics believe that Shaw’s exposure to European design inspired his unique interpretation of the Beaux Arts and Arts and Crafts movements that dominated residential design at the turn of the century. Edward Morris represented a typical member of Shaw's client base, which generally consisted of members of Chicago's growing mercantile and industrialist elites. The Morris House was completed in 1913, the year of Edward Morris' death.

The Morris House landscape plan is believed to have been designed by Rose Standish Nichols, one of the first American women to become a professional landscape designer. Nichols was a resident of the Beacon Hill neighborhood of Boston. Many of her projects are now recorded in the Archives of American Gardens of the Smithsonian Institution. She wrote three books and numerous articles on European landscape design. One of the founding members of the International Women's League for Peace and Freedom, Nichols never married, instead devoting her personal life to the suffragist and international pacifist movements.

From the guide to the Morris, Edward House. Collection, 1913-1919, (Special Collections Research Center University of Chicago Library 1100 East 57th Street Chicago, Illinois 60637 U.S.A.)


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  • Architecture--20th century--Sources
  • Architecture--19th century--Sources
  • Architects--Archives


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  • Illinois--Chicago (as recorded)