Hannibal’s five brothers made it big in the music industry during the first quarter of the 20th century, producing sheet music that found its way into the Library of Congress.
They grew up in the post-Civil War in the men’s clothing business, under the tutelage of their father, Israel Morris. But they came of age in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where the Joe Morris Music Co. was born around the turn of the century. The objective of the company: all that is musical.
One of their productions, a catchy tune promoting patriotism, played at raves during World War I. “There is a service flag flying in our house,” was probably on the lips of people back home in Hannibal.
And it was produced by none other than the Morris brothers:
Mark L. Morris, born in Chicago in 1863; and his younger brothers, all born in Hannibal: Solomon, 1866; Louis, 1868; Joseph, 1871; and Hyman, 1874.
As soldiers across the country performed their patriotic duty, and their loved ones anxiously awaited news from the front, Thomas Hoier and Bernie Grossman set their words to music written by Al. W. Brown. The music was later distributed as sheet music published in 1918 by the Joe Morris Music Co., from the company’s New York office.
The Morris family traces its Hannibal roots to at least July 1, 1863, when the family patriarch, Israel, registered before the Civil War began. He said he was married, 36 years old, and lived in Hannibal’s second hall.
Israel and Hannah previously lived in Chicago, where the German immigrant worked for the S. Harris clothing store, located near the corner of Randolph and Wells streets. It was in Chicago that their son, Marcus (Mark) L. Morris was born in 1863. (The S. Harris store was located near the current site of the Cadillac Palace Theater in Chicago.)
After the Civil War, the Morris family moved to 206 N. Fourth St., Hannibal, a long-destroyed two-story brick house that stood roughly across from Trinity Episcopal Church. .
Israel Morris supported this family of boys by operating a men’s clothing and hat shop at 121 North Main Street. In 1871 he competed among other notable businessmen for clients of the same style of dress:
Jacob Harris, 111 N. Main;
Peter Henry, 321 N. Main;
Israel Kaufman, 119 N. Main;
Marsh and Morgan, 112 N. Main; and
Settles and Bowles, northwest corner of Main and Broadway.
In 1878, the Israeli-built commercial life in Hannibal collapsed. He made the sad trip to St. Louis, filing for voluntary bankruptcy.
At the start of the new decade, Israel Morris went to work as a salesman for Leopold Bros., 107 N. Main.
His son Marcus Morris accepted an internship at A. Shenker and Co., 411-413 Broadway.
In 1881 they had left the house they had occupied since 1866; instead moving to the east side of North Third St., north of Hill Street, and later to 111 N. Seventh St. and 218 S. Maple.
In 1885, the family had regrouped. A clothing store under the name of Israel’s wife, Hannah, operated at 101 Market. (As of 2022, the five-sided, two-story red brick building, still standing, is owned and occupied by White Oak Counseling, 1221 Market St.)
This unusually shaped building is the first in a row of buildings on the south side of the east end of The Wedge. Its unusual shape was designed to adapt to the topography of the neighborhood.
In 1888, the family lived at 111 N. Seventh St. Israel worked as an agent for his wife at 101 Market. Mark L. and Solomon L. Morris were clerks for their mother’s store. Louis Morris was a carrier for the post office.
In 1892, Joseph would open a news depot at 106 S. Main, selling books, stationery, and music. This shop was probably the catalyst for future trade relations.
Move to Philadelphia
After selling the Market Street clothing store to Charles Levy around 1895, the family left Hannibal.
By the time Solomon Morris married Miss Jennie Kory in St. Louis in January 1898, the Morris family had moved to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The newlyweds spent the night at the Planters Hotel in St. Louis, then traveled directly to Philadelphia. , where they would live their lives. Their family home was located at 857 N. Franklin, Philadelphia.
In July 1902, family members founded “Joseph Morris, Incorporated”. The company’s mission was to sell music and musical instruments.
The partners were Israel and Hannah Morris, and their sons, Joseph, Marcus and Hyman.
Sons Solomon and Louis were in the merchant clothing business for a time, but later joined the business.
Death of parents
Mrs. Hannah Morris died of pneumonia on May 1, 1907. Two years later, on March 12, 1909, her husband, Isreal, died aged 77. These former Hannibal business owners rest in Adath Jeshurun Cemetery in Philadelphia.
Their sons open an office in New York and Joseph Morris, whose name is associated with the business, divides his time between the two cities. Each of the brothers took turns in leadership roles in the business.
By 1922, the Philadelphia storefront, located at 6 N. 13th Ave., was selling musical instruments as well as sheet music.
Among the 10-inch double-disc phonograph records available for sale at the store in February 1922:
“The Sun Will Soon Shine”
“All I need is you”
“Goodbye, Pretty Butterflies”
Solomon Morris died in 1935. He was married to Jennie Kory in 1898. They had two daughters, Blanche and Sylvia.
Hyman Morris died on August 6, 1935, aged 60–61, on board a train at Atlantic City Station. He left his estate to his brothers Louis, Marc and Joseph.
Louis Morris died on December 5, 1939 in Miami Beach, Florida. He was married to Bertha Jacobs in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in August 1907. She died January 1, 1952.
Marcus (Mark) L. Morris died in May 1939 at the age of 76. At the time of his death, he was residing at the St. James Hotel in Philadelphia, where he lived with his brother, Joseph Morris.
Joseph Morris died in 1941. The last of the brothers to die, he left his stock in the Morris Music Co., to his niece and nephew, Hannah and Raymond L. Kramer. Hannah was the only surviving child of her brother, Louis.
Other recipients were Blanche M. Cohen and Sylvia M. Lovett, daughters of Solomon Morris; and Bertha Morris, widow of Louis Morris.
The Morris brothers are buried with their parents in Adath Jeshurun Cemetery in Philadelphia.
Note: The spellings of the names of Israel Morris, patriarch of the early Hannibal Morris family, were many and varied, including: Esreal, Ezra, Esrael.