MORRIS STUDIO: THE UNSEEN COLLECTION 

Photographs of Southampton, 1892 – 1940 

 

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ALL NEW IMAGES

Rogers Mansion, 17 Meeting House Lane, Southampton  

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Opening Reception: Saturday, March 2 / 4 to 6 PM 

Exhibit: March 2 thru August 3, 2019

Join us for an entirely NEW collection of historic photos from the Morris Studio Collection. This exhibit presents another look at the rich history of the East End of Long Island. George W. Morris began taking professional photos in 1892 when he opened his photography store on Main Street in Southampton. When the shop closed in 2017 over 10,000 glass plate negatives were discovered hidden in the basement. This exhibit includes over 70 framed photographs taken by Morris that illuminate a lost era spanning over 100 years. Among the photographs are local historic landmarks and families portraits. The public is invited to the opening reception for this new installation on Saturday, March 2, 4-6 pm at the Rogers Mansion.

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George W. Morris (1871-1959)

        The Morris Studio, which operated in the same familiar building on the east side of Main Street from 1898 until 2017, actually opened six years earlier in 1892 when photographer George W. Morris set up shop above Madame Juliette’s Millinery Shop on the other side of the street. A dapper fellow, whose self-portrait shows him in a bowler and bow tie assuming a jaunty, Chaplinesque pose, Morris came to Southampton at the age of 21 from Sayville where he had apprenticed in photography. An up–and-coming resort for the glamorous affluent, Southampton seemed like a good bet for an up-and-coming photographer. By all accounts—and we have the photographic evidence—George Morris was a master of his craft in an era when images were still being captured on glass plates by a very complex process. Because it was essential that the plates be kept moist, Morris would float them in a sticky essence of coffee.

        For studio portraits, Morris liked to use the natural light from a large skylight, which, alas, was sent crashing to the floor in the 1938 hurricane. Out in the field with his primitive camera, Morris captured priceless views of Southampton’s dirt roads, vintage automobiles, its landmarks and long-gone citizens engaged in forgotten pursuits. Back in his darkroom, he mixed his own chemicals to produce the images that are our best record of Southampton at the turn of the last century.

        Following in their father’s footsteps, sons Wilton and Douglas Morris later took over the business and proved nimble negotiators of the rapid advances in photography that led to its popularization. When Douglas Morris retired, the business continued under the ownership of Jim Thomason, but his efforts and those of his son who followed him were gradually overwhelmed by the realities of the digital age, when anyone with a smartphone can take a decent photograph and cameras are again largely the province of professionals and serious amateurs. The Morris Studio building survives at 72 Main Street in another guise and the collection of photographs that is George Morris’s priceless legacy is now owned by Jim Thomason’s son Neal Thomason. The spirit of Morris Studio lives on with Mary Godfrey, who owns a framing and photography store at 89 Jobs Lane.

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OPENING RECEPTION:               FREE  

EXHIBIT OPEN HOURS: Wednesdays to Saturdays, 11:00 am to 4:00 pm

FEE OTHER TIMES:        $5, Free for Members and Children 17 & under            

MORE INFO:                  Call the museum at (631) 283-2494 or visit www.southamptonhistory.org   

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Two Women of Fashion on a Bench, c. 1895

The highly styled costumes of these two ladies reveal their attendance at an afternoon reception. Strings of pearls and ostrich feathers, seen in the fan on the left and on the hat on the right, were popular during the Belle Epoque at the end of the Victorian Era.

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Boarding House with Proprietors, c. 1880

This unidentified photo may be a promotion for a Southampton boarding house in the 1890s. The couple stand on the lawn with their dog and pony. The windows are open and do not have insect screens, which are not needed near the ocean. On the right a pillow on the front porch steps suggests leisure time and on the left a quilt drying in the sun advertises cleanliness.

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Irving House, c. 1890

Irving Terry worked as a broom maker who loved to entertain and kept expanding his home to house friends and eventually boarders. His “Irving House” began as a modest 12 room summer hostel in the late 1880s located on the SW corner of First Neck Lane and Hill Street. That is probably Terry standing near the gate next to carriage steps, with his seemingly shy wife on the porch. The boarding house developed into a fashionable 100‐room hotel where young Kennedys, Vanderbilts and Roosevelts once stopped. It was destroyed in 1974.

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Ron Winters Orchestra, c. 1936

The identification and date of this photo in the Morris Collection is unusual –  most of them are not labeled. The band members were good at multi-tasking with clarinets ready at the feet of the saxophone players and an unclaimed standing microphone near the pianist.

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Bride & Groom, c. 1950

The unknown couple is formally dressed, he in white tie and she in a veil with a long train. The bouquet of calla lilies suggests elegance. 

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www.southamptonhistory.org

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