Audrain County, Missouri
Fourth in series Published Apr. 23, 1934 3/1 & 2
Another outstanding character here, ever since I have known him, has been Sam Morris. The writer recalls that he landed in Mexico with $25 in his pocket, and went into business here. He was a purchaser of old iron, rags, feathers, wool, papers and magazines, and every conceivable thing. He was not a man to invest in sporting goods, and the nearest he came in this direction was when he joined the golf club.
He has always been a great lodge man, the writer having met him many times in the Masonic lodge, and later, in the Odd Fellows lodge. He became a Shriner in the Masonic lodge, and was an active T. P. A., and attended its convention for many years. We were Knights Templar Masons together, and he became a 32d degree Mason.
He was very enterprising, and a great man to boost every local enterprise for good. For instance, he gave to the schools, and he could be counted on to be in the lead in any worthwhile drive that came before the public. He was ever ready to help the various denominations in a financial way. Few men in our town have ever done more to help the poor. He has always been a man of generosity, and well liked in business transactions and in social affairs, having succeeded admirably along all lines of business, and at present carries furniture, rugs, and hardware, with his two enterprising sons, Herbert and Earl, looking after his business for him in his retiring years.
He is a man who has taken unusual interest in his family, assisting them in whatever selection they made of a livelihood for life. His two boys, at the time of the World War, went overseas, and Earl, the younger of the two, remained after the close of the war, for five years in the navy.
One daughter, Natalie, is making a success teaching home economics in the high school at Bunkie, La., another daughter, Pearl, has remained at home to give her attention to her father's needs, in his declining years, and his daughter, Mrs. E. F. (Gertrude Morris) Klass, is rearing and educating a family of fine grandchildren, and at present resides in Columbia.
The writer recalls a conversation with Sam Morris some years ago, while his children were yet in school. He sent the two boys off to military academy. The writer said, "Why in the world, Sam, do you want to send those boys to military school for.” He straightened up in his chair, looked me square in the eye, and said, "I'm sending them off to school to learn to eat." That was his way of saying he was sending them to school to learn proper discipline.
"I want them to learn to have some style, and some manners about them, and to take some pride in their appearance." The writer said, "Why, Sam, what do you want to fool away your time trying to give these boys a military education? What better education can you give your boys than they can get right here in this business house of yours? You're the best educated man in Mexico today. You know your business thoroughly. The evidence of that fact is found in your success. Take your boys out of school and put them in here, and teach them this business you have."
Sam did so, and today, his boys are thoroughly informed along the line of their business, as much so as any business man you might find in the county. You could take a pelt from an animal's back to one of those boys, and after feeling of it, he can tell you the month in which the skin was taken. And in all particulars of their business, they are fully as well informed.
There are certain characteristics connected with every business that are bound to determine its success or failure. Sam Morris is a man possessed of the characteristics of integrity and honor, and of forthright and square dealing that should dominate any life of success.
It would be hard for me to think of a man in Mexico today who has as many friends as Sam Morris. And, perhaps, few men of whom the public at large and businessmen have knowledge, throughout this entire country, from New York to San Francisco, are held in higher business esteem than Sam Morris, of our own home city.
Fifth in series Published Apr. 27, 1934 3/4
We continue this story by mentioning, first how Sam Morris came to Mexico in the year 1879. He came to the United States in 1876.
While a young man, he placed his best energies in the pursuit of knowledge and book learning, and as was the law and custom of his native country of Germany in those days, he was compelled to complete a school curriculum that would measure up with what we might call a public school education here.
And, as was the custom, every boy was compelled to learn a trade, after first having his education as a foundation for success.
He was supposed to select his own profession, or his parents would do it for him. It suffices to say that he selected the trade of cigar maker, and worked at the business until he became a very fine cigar maker.
He then came to America, landing in New York, with only a few dollars in his pocket. Without money he refused to think of crossing the ocean again, until he had something ahead. He took whatever presented, thinking this better than to spend his money and time looking for a select occupation or calling.
I will, in a few words, give you a sketch of his life in New York. Sam went from the hotel down the street, and stopped in a place of business, thinking he could perhaps get a position there.
He stepped into a store and asked for the proprietor. New York having so many Jews, he was not so much troubled about the language. He said to the old gentleman he found there, "My friend, I am out of work and I'm stranded. I've got to earn the money today to permit me to sleep in New York tonight."
The man said, "All right, sir. I give you a job. No man is turned from my door, if he's a man for work. Experience is not necessary. You simply go out and find your people and do business, right on the spot. I want you to go out and buy hair combings for me."
This man manufactured hair jewelry. He had quite an interesting factory. "If you do your part, you will come to the front," he said.
Sam went out and walked the city until noon. "I couldn't make it go, I came back to him and told my story. He said, "Well, get a little bit farther away. You's begin to pick it up in another day."
With no success the first day, Sam had a sleepless night. He said, "I rolled and tossed on my bed the whole night through. I could find plenty of hair combings, and they wanted to sell them, but their prices were too high. I couldn't do a thing. So I fell upon this plan. I got farther away from the factory and stopped at a house. I rang the door bell. A woman came.
"I said, ' Hair combings. I'm buying hair combings. Have you any to sell?' She said, 'Yes, walk in. Have a seat.' she said, and stepping into another room, came back with two or three shoe boxes of hair combings. As she approached, I rose to my feet leaving my hat on the floor.
"I said, 'Let's see, Madam,' and as she took off the box lid, there was the nicest black hair. I hadn't seen any nicer the day before. I said, 'Red hair, red hair. It is the only kind we buy.' Then I said, 'Well, we do buy some black hair, too, but it is very cheap, if we buy it. But, I'll tell you, lady, what I can do for you. We make hair jewelry, all kinds of it, watch chains, watch guards, bracelets, breast pins, everything you can think of.
"I'll tell you what I can do. I'll make up the hair into jewelry and sell it back to you, and take the hair as part pay. She soon signed with me and I had the hair and was gone, to return in a few days. This I did, closing some very profitable sales.
"Leaving that house, I called at another in the same block, and was permitted to enter. I had about the same success. But the success in all of it was in buying the goods right. She said, 'Yes, I have some combings,' and brought me two shoe boxes full.
"When she entered the room, I rose, and said, 'Let's see,' and when the lid was taken off, and I looked in, I said, "Ah, black hair, black hair, we buy only red hair. That is, we do buy some black hair, but if we do buy it, we buy it very cheap. However, at our factory, we'll manufacture this hair into jewelry and I know that you'll be interested in it, and want to buy some of it. When you show to your husband the jewelry made from your hair, he will only want to know the price and will buy it.
"To make the story short, a sale was accomplished, and I soon had the boxes of hair, and was gone with them. When I thus got all I could carry, I then started for the factory. There, I turned in the contracts and got my commission, and went out for another load. It was hard work but proved to be good pay.
"The proprietor was much gratified, and wanted me to stay with him, especially when I told him the secret of my success, but after remaining there some time, I made up my mind to go on west. When I purchased my ticket, I had $5 left, and enough to buy a few sandwiches on the way.
"I landed in Mexico one night and took lodging. Next morning, I started early, looking for employment. I am still a seeker.
Sam started out at once, buying old rags and papers and wool and feathers, hides, pelts, and skins from forest animals. His motto was ever, "Quick sales, and small profits." He opened on the east side of Jefferson Street almost opposite the present Llewellyn residence.
He succeeded, as he mingled his thoughts with his labors. I recall meeting him one morning on the street, after I opened my practice here in 1902. He said, "I can buy the G. D. Ferris property for $3000. What do you think about it?" I said, "Sam, don't let the sun go down before you have closed the deal." He went away and as I recall it, he closed the deal before noon. He has since been in business at that location. He continued for a time in the same line of business, and has only discontinued the pelts and hides the last 12 or 15 years.
Many interesting things in Mr. Morris' life come to mind. Mrs. Morris, his wife, was a splendid housewife, who lived (sic) after all the interests of the home in general.
It was interesting to me to hear him tell how he purchased his wife a nice surrey, that she wanted very much. His wife, one morning, said, "Mr. Morris, I've been thinking about how nice it would be for you to purchase a nice surrey for the children and me."
Mr. Morris said, "Very well, we'll see about that." In a day or two, meeting me on the street, he said, "I've just bought my wife a surrey. It cost me $135." I said, "Yes, Sam, it is a very handsome one." "I'll tell you how I got it," he said.
Sam said, "I called the Wilder and Pearson firm at Laddonia, over the phone. It cost 25 cents. I asked them if they had any wool for sale. They said they did. I told them I'd be down in the morning. I went down on the 7 o'clock train the next morning and bought the wool. There was a car load of it. It was a lump deal. I get the market every day by wire and watch it very close. I turned the car over to the St. Louis people, there in the siding at Laddonia, for enough profit to pay for the surrey and the cost of my train fare to the cent. So the surrey cost me only my telephone call.
It is still Mr. Morris' custom to get daily prices on the lines of goods that he handles. Besides that, he gets a daily report of all transfers and chattels in this town.
I recall another season when he made $1000 in the wool business and didn't buy a pound. I met him one morning on the street. He said, "Doctor, I'm going to take my daughter, Pearl, and go to California for a month or two." He went the southern route and came back the northern one, taking in many of the large cities and staying some time in New York. When he returned home, I met him again on the street. He said, "Doc, I made more than $1000 this year in the wool business without buying a pound. Some of my competitors lost thousands. But the market didn't look good to me, and I left home, leaving orders for them not to buy a pound. I'm confident I saved more than a thousand dollars."
It suffices to say, from these illustrations, that he will leave his children, financially speaking, on Easy Street.