Monday, June 4, 2018

Joseph G Morris

16 Sixth Street, Pittsburgh

Joseph G. Morris
(21 Nov 1850 - 08 Feb 1923)

All things considered, vital records of Joseph G Morris are comparatively sketchy. His business career is more easily traceable as the Pittsburg, PA, city directories are fairly complete.

Census and city directory documents show that J. G. Morris worked as a photographer from about 1883 to 1896 at 16 6th street. About 1897 the address changes to 126 6th street, until 1912.

Possibly this is not a move, just a change in the numbering.

He apparently gives up photography about 1913, age 63. He manages a building and works as a sales agent for about ten years until his death in 1923.

Still, his death certificate lists him as photographer and was signed by his wife, Mary.

Timeline from: city directories and US census

1850 Nov 21
Pennsylvania state death certificate, Joseph G Morris date of birth
1880 Jun 01
Pittsburg, PA, US census as photographic agent; res with parents, his father David is also a photographic agent
1881 - 1882
Pittsburg, PA, city directory as manager; res 35 Poplar A
1883 - 1888
Pittsburg, PA, city directory as photographer at 16 6th st; res apparently the same
1889 - 1896
Pittsburg, PA, city directory as photographer at 16 6th st; res 173 South av
1897 - 1899
Pittsburg, PA, city directory as photographer at 126 6th st; res 173 South av (1897 directory says 120 instead of 126 but it is probably a printing error)
1900 Jun 04
Pittsburg, PA, US census as photographer boarding at 810 South st

Pittsburg, PA, city directory as photographer at 126 6th st; res 856 Lincoln
1903 Jan 03
Pittsburg, PA, state records J G Morris marries Mary Pearson (second marriage for both); as photographer shown on registration
1903 - 1912
Pittsburg, PA, city directory as photographer at 126 6th st (1912 city directory list also that the studio is on the 5th floor)
Pittsburg, PA, city directory as building manager; res 230 McKee
Pittsburg, PA, city directory as mfgrs agent; res 232 McKee (probably a misprint)
Pittsburg, PA, city directory as agt for Wm H Horstman Co. res 230 McKee
Pittsburg, PA, city directory as mfgrs agent at Bessemer bldg.; res 230 McKee
1918 - 1928
Pittsburg, PA, city directory none available

1923 Feb 23
Pittsburg, PA, state death certificate J G Morris dies of pneumonia at age 72; shown as photographer; res 230 McKee (certificate signed by Mrs J G Morris)

The address on the above cabinet card is 16 Sixth Street, so it was probably finished before 1897 and after 1883.

But a later date is possible.

The itinerant operator who worked out of a tent or a railroad car or the photographer that had branch studios in neighboring towns would need something like a hand operated print press in order to imprint as many blank cards as needed for a particular day’s work in a particular location.

But established photographers like J G Morris with only one studio could order cabinet card blanks from a local printer, imprinted with studio

name and address. These could have been ordered in large quantities especially if the photographer had a well-established address. (Some of them changed locations a LOT!)

The card example at the top was probably done by the photographer in his own studio using something similar to a rubber stamp. The card at the bottom of this page, printed with gold ink on both sides was probably done by a professional printer.

Now, having a new stamper or printing plate made might have been expensive. Since it appears the studio didn’t actually move, only the address number changed, Morris probably didn’t bother changing the number on his stamp.

If this theory is plausible, Morris could have been using his old print plate to imprint cards well after the address change.

photographer: Morris
example from auction site

Example from auction site

Reverse of card at the left

Not the one you were looking for? Here's the photographer's INDEX by name. Listed here are all the Cabinet Card photographers of the 19th century found in LOST GALLERY. This is a work in progress. For a look at the original postings go to LOST GALLERY.


  1. You state that "the address on this cabinet card is 16 Sixth Street, so it must have been finished before 1897 and after 1883". Is it possible for a Morris photograph with the No. 16 as the address to have been from a slightly later date? Maybe there were pre-printed stocks cards with the old address that needed to be used up after he moved his studio in 1897? I have a photo of a young girl/boy (not sure) that I'm trying to date, but the person I think it is would make the photo from circa 1905. Thoughts?

    1. Good comment. I re-examined the available records and expanded the Morris page a bit to help with dating speculation.


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