Item 6 - Letters to brother Thomas John Morris : July 1877-1880

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Letters to brother Thomas John Morris : July 1877-1880


  • 1877-1880 (Creation)

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32 letters, damaged

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William Knibb Morris (1833-1912), was born at Loughton, Essex UK, son of Thomas Morris (1800-1874) and Sarah (Allard 1803-1876). He and his father sailed in the Boomerang from Liverpool to Melbourne in 1855 and arrived in Hobart by the SS City of Hobart on 24 May 1855. His brother James had emigrated earlier in 1853 with his wife Elizabeth (Bryant) and baby Thomas and worked for J.B. Mather, who sponsored Thomas and William Morris as bounty emigrants and lent money for the fare (W. Morris mentions in a letter that he had not paid Mather for the tickets). Thomas Morris got a job with R.A. Mather and William started work for H.J. Marsh & Brother's ironmongers, serving in the shop and keeping the books. They lived at first in James Morris' home with his wife, father-in-law Bryant, and the babies, William James born in December 1853 and daughter Mary Elizabeth born 13 July 1855, the first child Thomas having died in Hobart in February 1854, and friend Isaac Cash. William wrote to his mother, however, that James was charging too much for their lodging. In 1861 his mother, Sarah Morris, came to join her husband. In 1859, after a year or two in a store at Falmouth as agent of the East Coast Steam Navigation Co of which J.B. Mather was manager, James Morris went to work for J.A. Graham in his store at Swansea and in 1869 purchased the store from Graham. After eighteen months in Hobart William K. Morris ran a store at Fingal. In 1860 he was managing a store in Sydney for Mr Beamis but this was closed when the owner Mr Beamis was dying in August 1860. He then went to Gayndah in Queensland to work in a store run by Beamis' son until May 1861. In October 1861 he was back in Sydney looking for work and in November went to Orange and then Forbes, on the N.S.W. goldfields, working for a storekeeper named Curran and in 1862 he worked in South Gundagai in Gasse & Co's store. About 1864 he opened a general store at Fingal. In 1869 he married Sarah Rebecca Rothwell and they had seven children between 1870 and 1882. In 1877 he sold his Fingal store and brought his family to Hobart, where he worked for the merchant Leo Susman and later for the Hobart Mutual Benefit Society.
Morris was interested in scientific discoveries including photography, especially methods of copying photographs on paper and there are many references to scientific matters in his letters to his brother Tom, who was also interested in photography and Tom's future wife, Jane Garman was a photographer. In August 1855 Morris wrote to his brother about another method, "besides the collodion" of "photographic pictures on paper described in Mr Woods of Cheapside's little book which is a very simple and good method, and when taken they can be waxed which renders them almost equal to those taken on waxed paper". He sent his brother "a small picture taken by the above process, a positive which I transferred to a piece of paper treated with the chloride sodium in the usual way". A Hobart photographer, Walter Dickenson, might have taken him as an assistant but Morris was afraid of the risk of leaving the commercial - life for the artistic. Morris does not seem to have done much photography himself when he was working as a storekeeper in Queensland, N.S.W. and Fingal, although he bought photo-slides to send to his brother. Indeed he may not have owned a camera at that time as he borrowed Clifford's camera to photograph his parents' house at Mangana and had his children's portraits done by professional photographers. His interests turned more to the development of the electric telegraph and the telephone, electric lighting and the microscope and there are many references to developments in Tasmania and on the mainland. In 1888 he became an active member of the newly formed Photographic Society in Hobart, especially in working various kinds of lantern projectors, and in 1891 he referred to his "little camera"

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Deposited by John Morris, Balmain, NSW Feb. 1967

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Letters from William Knibb Morris to brother Thomas John Morris dated July 1877-1880. Regarding, Hobart: auction at Fingal successful, Sunday School gave Sarah purse of money - invested in small "Friend" sewing machine, train, job on Railways, Jerusalem [Colebrook] station, accident on line, going back to Susmans, Rev. Wade, temporary job with R. Lewis & Son then back to Susman (March 1878), experiments with telephone, Dr. Smart's telephone connected to another doctor's surgery across road (March 1878), value of electric telegraph, Mr Henry [Robert H. jr.] head of telegraph office, experiments with microphones - meeting at telegraph office, daughter born - "a regular Morris" dark eyes and black hair (30 August 1878), Prof. Pepper's lecture on electricity, Canon [Marcus Blake] Brownrigg missionary formerly at Lachlan goldfields 1860-1, sending photo of railway line at Jerusalem, also sending Father and Mother's cockatoo - they taught it to speak - on "Windward" which was carrying 2000 birds, electric pen (April-May 1879), winding up Duncan's estate at Fingal (May 1879), Cowper's writing telegraph, Edison's loud speaking telephone, Mr Henry to establish telephone circuit, experiments with telephone between New Norfolk-Hobart-Sandy Bay (31 August 1879), progress at telegraph office Mt. Nelson - connected with office by Bell/Siemen telephone, Collis family, Ackerman's museum at Launceston, Sydney Exhibition (August 1879), scientific experiments at conversazione in aid of organ fund (September 1879), Percy had rheumatic fever, Charles Bryant drowned in Derwent (February 1880), parrot skins and frames made by Martha Rothwell of Quorn Hall sent by Lufra for children (February 1880), "Star" newspaper, James Morris' tin mine (March 1880).

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This material is made available for personal research and study purposes under the University of Tasmania Standard Copyright Licence. For any further use permission should be obtained from the copyright owners. For assistance please contact

When reusing this material, please cite the reference number and provide the following acknowledgement:
“Courtesy of the UTAS Library Special & Rare Collections”

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HE july 2018




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