Roger Burton Morrison was born in Paris, Kentucky, on March 20, 1875. His father, Joe Morrison, was born 1845 in Kentucky. His mother, Alice Porter, was born 1852 in Kentucky. They married in 1872 and had two children. His older brother James Morrison was born 1873. When he was seven months old the family moved to Louisville, KY, where his father worked as a clerk. They lived with his maternal grandmother, Liza Porter, and his mother's sister, Laura Porter, at 179 North Green Street.
By 1890 at the age of fifteen he finished schooling and went to work. This was customary for most American teenagers at that time. He worked as a clerk for the Standard Oil Company. He quit that job when he was invited to play shortstop on a semi-pro baseball team that toured the southern states.
During the off-season he worked at The Louisville Evening Post, where he became interested in a career as a newspaper cartoonist. His parents did not approve of this ambition.
Instead of going to art school In 1898 he moved to New York City. He lived with his uncle and aunt, Frederick and Laura (Porter) Kleyle, at 164 West 79th Street in NYC. He looked for work as a newspaper cartoonist and studied night school art classes at the National Academy of Design on Fifth Avenue and East 89th Street.
By 1900 he was selling pen and ink illustrations to The Bohemian and The Cosmopolitan.
By 1909 he was employed as a staff artist at The New York World newspaper. Most of these illustrations were signed, Mori. According to the artist, "The nom de plume, Mori, was the result of circumstances. Early drawing assignments which fell to my lot, when reproduced were so small my signature was entirely lost. Obviously the need was for fewer letters and make 'em big. Elimination finally achieved the desired result. I was quite elated. The name sounded like a high class operatic star of exotic origin. Born of the moment, the intent was not to make it permanent, but somehow or other it has stuck and goes to show how easy a Kentuckian of Scot descent can be transformed, apparently, into a child of sunny Italy."
In 1915 his Aunt and Uncle moved to East Orange New Jersey, where his older brother James came to live with them, while he adjust to his job as an assistant superintendent at a New York insurance company.
He lived at 138 West 58th Street, which is one block from the NY Art Students League. He shared the apartment with another young artist, who also worked at the same newspaper, Harry Leonard, born 1878 in England.
In 1916 he lived at 107 West 46th Street, a section of midtown Manhattan known as Hell's Kitchen. His occupation was listed in a NY business directory as "artist," but his former roommate Harry Leonard had become his next door neighbor at 109 West 46th Street, where his occupation was likewise listed as "artist."
In 1917 his illustrations were published in the pulp magazine All-Story Weekly, published by Munsey. His story-headings continued to appear in this magazine on a regular basis, as well as another Munsey pulp magazine, The Argosy.
On September 12, 1918 he reported for draft registration in the Great War. He was recorded to be medium height, medium build, with brown eyes and brown hair. At the age of 39 he was not selected to serve in the military.
In 1919 he worked as a newspaper artist at The New York Morning Telegraph, located at 50th Street and Eighth Avenue.
In 1926 his place of business was listed in a national directory of illustrators, Advertising Arts & Graphics, published by Lee & Kirby Inc.
The pulp magazine The Argosy had a regular feature entitled, The Men Who Make The Argosy, which introduced some of their key contributors to their readers. The July 26, 1930 issue included a charming and light-hearted autobiographical profile on Roger B. Morrison, which included the self-portrait that appears above.
He yearned to travel for pleasure and adventure. According to the artist, "I can boast of little travel. I fain would wander a bit. What's to hinder an old bachelor with none of the ties that bind? Nothing, so I expect soon to start on my first trip abroad." In 1931 he visited Germany, and in 1934 he visited Spain on another pleasure trip.
He met Paulette Beller, born 1888 in Unterkulm, Switzerland. She lived and worked in NYC and was a sophisticated fashion designer.
In 1940 at the age of sixty-five he retired from illustration. He married Paulette and moved to 2421 Diston Avenue South in Gulfport, Florida.
During WWII he was too old to serve in the military.
On November 1, 1942 his daughter Paulette was born. A few months later in 1943 his wife died at the age of fifty-four of complications from childbirth.
Roger B. Morrison died in Gulfport, FL, at the age of seventy in 1945.
© David Saunders 2011