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Morris family papers

Identifier: MSS 0196

Scope and Contents

The Morris family papers span the dates 1740-1985, with the bulk dates 1864-1925. The collection includes legal deeds, account books, personal and business correspondence, legal briefs, and photographs. The papers were acquired in various separate accessions: general correspondence and papers were received as a gift after the death of Judge Morris in 1966, miscellaneous William Wilkinson Morris letters were received as a gift in 1974, and a single letter was donated in 1985. Photographs were added in the 1990s, and a 2015 addition added significantly to the papers of James A Smith.

There are six series in the Morris family papers:

Series I, Morris family, documents the Morris family land holdings and includes both original and photo reproductions of deeds and indentures of Greenwood, Northwest Fork Hundred, and other Morris land holdings. Also includes some family wills. The documents date from 1740-1890s.

Series II, William Wilkinson Morris, consists of personal correspondence. Major correspondents include M.N. Gray (correspondence dating between 1865-1867), a friend who was making better wages working at a store in Greensborough, Maryland than he could make on the farm in Delaware; the courting letters between Williams and Mary Luther Collison, dating between 1874-1875; and letters from cousin W.H. Brokaw in Fair Hill, Maryland (letters date from 1864-1868).

Series III, James A. Morris, includes receipts, checks, correspondence, wills, estate documents, broadsheets, accounts, clippings and bank account books, reflecting various clerical appointments held and legal work conducted by Smith, Hugh M. Morris’ father-in-law.

Series IV, Hugh M. Morris, consists of school notebooks, correspondence and legal papers. The school notebooks include books of verbatim lecture notes from Delaware College, 1896-1898. His personal correspondence includes ca. 100 letters of congratulations received upon Morris’ appointment to the Federal Bench, 1919, and carbons of his replies to these letters. Miscellaneous items include a memo reflecting a political difference between Delaware Governor Cox and P.S. DuPont, 1920; legal documents in re Pusey & Jones submitted by Saulsbury to Judge Morris, 1923-1925; and a reprint of an article published in The Outlook, 1903, by George Kennan. Written in the muckraking journalism of the day, Holding up a State tells the story of political corruption and vote buying by J. Edward Addicks in Sussex and Kent counties. The Hugh Morris papers also include landscape plans from 1960 commissioned by Mary Smith Morris for renovation of the Morris Estate in Polly Drummond Hill, Newark.

Series V, Willard Saulsbury, Jr., includes letters of introduction carried on his travels abroad and miscellaneous business correspondence. The correspondence from his senate years, 1913-1919 includes a passport signed by U.S. Secretary of State W. J. Bryan, prepared for Saulsbury’s 1915 trip to Japan and China.

Series VI, Morris family photographs, seem to be chiefly from the Hugh M. Morris family, although there are several people from an earlier generation and one arte de visite of Willard Saulsbury, Sr., U.S. Senator from Delaware, 1859-1871. The Hugh Morris family pictures include portraits of family members, photographs of family pets, and numerous scenes from the Morris Estate in Polly Drummond Hill, Newark. Also includes portraits of Judge Hugh M. Morris by Yousuf Karsh.


  • Creation: 1740-1985
  • Creation: 1864-1925


Conditions Governing Access

The collection is open for research

Conditions Governing Use

Use of materials from this collection beyond the exceptions provided for in the Fair Use and Educational Use clauses of the U.S. Copyright Law may violate federal law. Permission to publish or reproduce is required from the copyright holder. Please contact Special Collections, University of Delaware Library,

Biographical Note

Hugh Martin Morris was born to William Wilkinson Morris and Mary Luther Collison Morris at the family home in Greenwood, Sussex County, Delaware on April 9, 1878. Six generations earlier, around 1740, the Greenwood land had been granted by the Colony of Maryland to Daniel Morris, Daniel’s son, Curtis Morris, further developed the Morris acquisitions in Sussex County.

Hugh M. Morris was graduated from Delaware College with a Bachelor of Arts in 1898 and returned to Sussex County to teach school for two years. In 1900, he began the study of law under the preceptorship of Willard Saulsbury, Jr., who served as United States Senator from Delaware, 1913-1919. After admission to the Bar in 1903 and several years of independent practice in Wilmington, Morris joined Saulsbury’s firm in 1909. In 1914, the firm was reorganized under the name Saulsbury, Morris & Rodney.

On January 27, 1919, Morris was appointed U.S. district judge by President Woodrow Wilson. The time of Judge Morris’ appointment to the Federal Bench immediately following the First World War was marked by a growth in the nature and the volume of corporate litigation coming before the Delaware courts. The new judge was required to deal with changing Delaware corporate laws that set both state and federal precedent. “That Judge Morris was fully equal to the task and discharged that duty and responsibility diligently and to the high credit of the office is attested by the penetrating analysis, adherence to sound legal principle, and clarity of expression which characterize his reported opinions both in the District Court and in the United States Circuit Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, where he was sometimes called to sit, and by the esteem in which he was held by lawyers everywhere.” (Reed)

Judge Morris resigned from the Federal Bench on June 30, 1930 and returned to private practice of the law at the firm of Morris, Steel, Nichols & Arsht. At the time of his death in 1966, the name of the firm was Morris, Nichols, Arsht & Tunnel.

Hugh Morris was also active in civic and community affairs. He served as vice president and director of Wilmington Trust Company; manager of the Wilmington Savings Fund Society; member and president of the Board of Trustees of the University of Delaware; and trustee of the Tower Hill School. He was a member of the Society of Colonial Wars, and member and president of the Delaware Chapter of the Sons of the American Revolution. Hugh Morris was a member of the Phi Kappa Pi Fraternity, a registered democrat, and a member of the Episcopal Church. He received an honorary doctorate of laws from the University of Delaware in 1928.

Morris married Emma Carter Smith, daughter of James Andrew Smith and Rachel Carter Smith, on October 10, 1908. Their only daughter, Mary Smith Morris, was born August 8, 1912. The Morris home in Newark was located near Polly Drummond Hill.

Bevan, Wilson Lloyd, ed. History of Delaware, Past and Present. New York: Lewis Historical Pub. Co., 1929. vol 3, p. 88.Reed, Henry Clay, ed. Delaware, A History of the First State: Personal and Family Records. New York: Lewis Historical Pub. Co., 1947. vol. 3, p. 5.Who’s Who in Delaware. Chicago: The A.N. Marquis Company, 1939. p. 623.


1 linear foot

1 oversize box

1 VHS tape

Language of Materials



Hugh M. Morris (1878-1966) was a Delaware lawyer and served as a federal district judge from 1919-1930. The Morris family papers, spanning the dates 1740-1985 and including legal deeds, account books, personal and busienss correspondence, legal records and photographs, documents the lives and career of Judge Hugh Morris and members of his extended family and network.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Multiple gifts from the Morris family (1985), Robert F. Rider (1992), Samuel Arsht (1993), Helen Kirkatrick Patchel (1995), David Sheehan, Jr. (1995), and James Hall (2015). The collection also includes material transferred from the University of Delaware University Archives and University of Delaware Special Collections.

Related Materials in this Repository

MSS 0331, Willard Saulsbury, Jr., papers

MSS 0726, Morris family home movies collection

Shelving Summary

  1. Box 1: Shelved in SPEC MSS record center cartons
  2. Box 2: Shelved in SPEC MSS oversize boxes (24 inches)
  3. VHS tape: Shelved in SPEC media videocassettes

Processing Information

Processed by L. Rebecca Johnson, December 1990. Finding aid encoded by Lauren Connolly, May 2016. Additional processing and encoding by John Caldwell, February 2020.

Finding aid for the Morris family papers
University of Delaware Library, Special Collections
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the University of Delaware Library Special Collections Repository

181 South College Avenue
Newark DE 19717-5267 USA