Thursday, February 7, 2008

Henry D. Morse, Diamond Man

The Boston Directory of 1885 tells us that Henry D. Morse lived at the corner of Pond and Myrtle streets in Jamaica Plain, and an 1874 fire insurance map locates the house at number 44 Pond street.

New York Times January 4, 1888

The Pioneer Lapidary.

Death Of H.D. Morse, The Well-Known Dealer In Diamonds.

Boston, Jan. 3. -- Henry D. Morse, the pioneer of the diamond cutting industry in this country, died at his home at Jamaica Plain, Boston, Sunday, at the age of 62. In early life, he learned the engraver's trade, and afterward became a jeweler. He turned his attention to diamond cutting in 1861, shortly after the great yield of the South African diamond fields had been disclosed. Mr B.S. Pray of this city was then engaged in the African trade, and brought some rough stones to this country with the idea of competing with foreign countries. Mr Morse became associated with Mr Pray, and with the former's skill and the latter's money the business of diamond cutting was a reality in America before the year was ended. The undertaking was a bold one, and the importers and dealers in precious stones all over the country looked upon the experimental industry with distrust and alarm. The business was started under the name of the Morse Diamond Cutting Company, Mr Morse superintending all the work. It was necessary to employ dutch experts at first in the work of cutting and polishing and whenever they were secured they maintained the same secrecy respecting their art as in their own country, and the same dictatorial spirit toward their employers and the world in general. Mr Morse learned the secrets of the art and taught it to American boys surreptitiously in an adjoining suburb, and when the foreigners struck Mr Morse was ready to fill their places with hands who together with himself were enabled to continue the business without any serious interruption.

In the year 1869 Mr Morse established his fame as the great diamond cutter of his time by his skill in the case of a 50-carat stone found in Manchester, nearly opposite Richmond, va. Lapidaries who worked at it in the rough expressed the opinion that it would be almost impossible to obtain a first-water stone of any size whatever from the original gem, but that it would be better to cut it into smaller fragmentary crystals. Mr Morse was interested with the work of cutting it, and by skillful and adroit manipulation and study of the las of light and geometrical relations he produced one of the most brilliant 12-carat diamonds. It was owned by John Morrissey when he died and subsequently it into the posession of the late Alvin Adams of the Adams Express compnay. Mr Morse also invented a cutting and polishing machine, which did away in a great measure with the tediousnes and inaccuracy of the old manual process. The firm of crosby, Morse & Foss, jewelers and diamond cutters, was formed, but in 1875 the firm dissolved, and Mr Morse established himself a dealer in diamonds and gems and diamond cutter. Last year Mr Morse engaged in busines again with his old partner, Mr C.D. Foss, under the firm name of H.D. Morse & C.D. Foss.

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