Figure 1.--Four generations of Morrisons, Sammy at 4 years of age mother, grandmother, and great-great aunt in 1891. He wears a white dress and ringlet curls as was the fashion of the time.

American Boyhood: Sammuel Morrison (1890s)

Sammuel Elliot Morison is one of America's most eminent and eloquent historians. One of his less serious, but most charming books is his autobiography, One Boy's Boston, 1887-1901, published in 1962 by Houghton Miffin Company, Boston. Sammy lived in the same house, located at 44 Bimmer St. in Boston his entire life. Sammy lived in this house with several generations of Morrisons, surrounded as it was with history. He was brought up with his mother, grandmother, and great-great aumt. One photograph taken in 1891 shows Sammy at 4 years of age wearing a white or pastel colored dress, long ringlets, and holding a toy in his right hand. He is surrounded by the Morrison ladies in black dresses (figure 1).

Sammy wore Little Lord Fauntleroy suits with long curls at 7 and I think his young friends did also. He writes about this in the book:

If children of the poor (and why not "poor," instead of that idiotic phrase "underprivileged"?) stared at little Sammy suspiciously, it was because he wore long yellow curls and was dressed to suit. This brings up the one big hate of my' childhood, the infamous creation of Frances Hodgson Burnett. Her Little Lord Fauntleroy, which appeared the year before I was born, had a disastrous effect on many fond mammas of that era; the more so on mine, as she had hoped for a girl. Thanks to Mrs. Burnett's namby-pamby juvenile hero, boys were dressed in velvet with lace collars and red stockings; and if their hair had any curl in it, forced to wear "love locks". I was one of these victims. The nurse used to make up my blond hair into golden ringlets every morning, turning them with her spittle around a sort of minor policeman's baton, and I was not allowed to have them shorn until the age of seven. About one boy in ten of that era, subjected to this indignity, suffered gibes, insults and hair-pullings innumerable from his more fortunate fellows; and I was that one in my infant schools. We victims would all have cheerfully contributed our pocket money to have Mrs. Burnett and her odious creation boiled in oil.

The Morrisons were an affluent family. Sammy was sent to a private school. A photograph taken in 1899 shows Sammy at 12 wearing an overcoat

Figure 2.--Sammy at 12 wearing an overcoat and school cap.
so you can't see how he was dressed. You can see his school cap. He may be wearing knickers, although it is not clear from the photograph (figure 2).

Christopher Wagner

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Last updated: June 28, 1998