The following was submitted in August of 2006, by collector and art historian Michael R. Perez:
George Spencer Morris (1867-1922), American
George Spencer Morris was born in Philadelphia on July 11, 1867. He studied architecture and drawing at Drexel Institute and that wellspring for Club members, the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. He was a member of the Philadelphia Sketch Club, and his name is at the center of every board meeting, elegantly carved into the long table that occupies the library….He has left his mark. Located in the Club’s files is found a yellowed newspaper clipping with his obituary. There is his photograph, an evidently happy man with wavy hair, thick eyebrows, a mustache, and a fat goatee. It reads, in part, “George Spencer Morris, since 1908 senior member of the firm of Morris & Erskine, architects, died last night at his home in Olney… Mr. Morris was a member of the board of curators of the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia and was interested especially in the ornithological section. [George was one of the founding members, 1890, of the Delaware Valley Ornithological Club.] …Mr. Morris was an amateur artist and a member of the Philadelphia Sketch Club. He served many years as a member of the board of managers of the Friends’ Hospital, Frankford, and of the Christiansburg Industrial Institute, Virginia. He leaves a widow and five children.”
With typical lack of foresight, our Club’s ancient archivist, whoever that happened to have been, forgot to incorporate the name and date of the newspaper from which they clipped the column. Also to be found in his file is a letter he wrote the Club’s Treasurer in 1903: “My dear Mr. Hering – Enclosed please find my check for fifty dollars which I am willing to lend to the Sketch Club for one year at 6% interest as proposed in your letter of the 24th… let me know and perhaps I could let you have a little more – not merely for the love I bear the Sketch Club – but because I look on it as a good investment.” Whereas the file is lacking in information, the history Lomas wrote of the Club paints a picture of a very involved member: “besides [George’s] other duties he acted as treasurer of the Grub Club, collecting fees, paying bills, and exercising a general supervision to the satisfaction of the midday diners. He was ideal for the job and had a personality that endeared him to his fellows.”
The history even quotes from George writing about the Grub Club members: “The true Grub Clubber must be able to take a knock good-naturedly, and return it inoffensively. The organization is truly democratic. Wealth counts for nothing and poverty is no disgrace. Genius and talent are respected and admired, but no particular reverence is paid to those of our members who may possess such gifts.”
As a Club member he had been responsible for many exhibitions, and was Vice President from 1907 to 1910 and again from 1913 to 1921. He sat on the Board from 1902 to 1906 and again from 1910 to 1912. George was married to Lydia Ellicott, one of the founders of the Charlotte Cushman Club. That club, which provided safe and inexpensive lodgings for actresses appearing on Philadelphia stages, was until recently the Sketch Club’s next door neighbor.
George Spencer Morris died in Philadelphia on the April 12, 1922.
Mostly compiled from the PSC Archives by Bruce H. Bentzman