(1914 - 2000)
Born in Denver, Colorado, A. Reynolds Morse is best known for his part in assembling the Morse Collection, one of the worlds largest collections of Salvador Dalí paintings, graphics, photographs, and sculptures.
Reynolds ("Ren" to his friends) first met future wife Eleanor Reese at the Cleveland Symphony Orchestra. The two were married in 1942 and would remain together for almost 50 years, until Morse's death in 2000.
The couple began collecting Dalí works when they purchased a painting to commemorate their one-year anniversary. That one painting would eventually lead to the enormous Morse Collection, which he and Eleanor would later donate to the Salvador Dalí Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida.
It is no surprise that Reynolds would seek to build a collection worthy enough to be housed in a museum, as philanthropy seemed to be part of the Morse family legacy. His grandfather, having made his fortune in the gold mining industry, was one of the original founders of the Denver Museum of Nature and History (originally titled the Denver Museum of Natural History). Morse would later become a lifetime trustee of the very same institution.
Morse graduated from the University of Colorado in Boulder with a Bachelor of Science in geology, later going on to earn his Master of Business Administration from the prestigious Harvard School of Business. In 1949, Morse started his own business, the Injection Molders Supply Company; he would later develop and patent several key products used in the field of plastic injection molding.
Besides collecting Dalí's artwork, Morse developed a relationship with the artist and soon became one of the leading authorities on his work. He wrote several books and articles on the subject, including one published by the New York Geographic Society entitled Dalí: A Study of His Life and Works.
Known in the creative community not only for his vast collection of Salvador Dalí works, Morse was also considered an expert on West Indies writer M. P. Shiel. He also collected a fair amount of works by artist George Elbert Burr.
Eighteen years after founding the first Salvador Dalí museum in Cleveland and seven years after donating the coveted Morse Collection to the newly-built Salvador Dalí Museum in St. Petersburg, Morse and his wife were knighted and given the Cross of the Officer of the Order of Isabella the Catholic in 1989. The Cross, presented by order of King Carlos of Spain, is the highest honor awarded to non-Spaniards.
When A. Reynolds Morse died, he left behind several legacies—many of his innovations in plastic injection molding continued to be used years after his death; his scholarly articles and books to this day give historians insight into the minds of Dalí, Shiel, and Burr; and his grand art collection, no longer hidden to the public, is now on permanent display in St. Petersburg.
But with this legacy comes a mystery: For whatever reason, Morse was terribly unhappy with his first name. So unhappy, in fact, that he always went by "A. Reynolds" or simply "Reynolds," never telling anyone what the "A" stood for. The rest of his family long dead, it is suspected that the only person who knows the answer to this (admittedly trivial) secret is his wife.*
*I was told this by the curator of the Salvador Dalí Museum during a phone interview on 16 Jan 2003. After caucusing the rest of her staff, the curator informed me that, while Morse was alive, no one had been successful in discovering his first name because (and I quote) "he just really hated it." Since his death, Eleanor has never voluntarily divulged the information, and since it would be of particularly poor taste to ask, "Hey, now that he's dead, tell us what he was keeping secret for so long!" it's unlikely anyone will ever know.
Sweet creeping zombie Jesus, how bad could the name be? Starts with an A... Um..."Aloysius?" "Abrascrewsagoat?" "Abracadabra?" "Ac_hyper?" "Apatrix?" Feel free to /msg me with your best guess. :)
1. http://www.salvadordalimuseum.org/cgi-bin/SoftCart.exe/info/history/founders.html?L+dali+gcth6312+1042786309 (16 Jan 2003)
2. http://www.salvadordalimuseum.org/cgi-bin/SoftCart.exe/info/history/index.html?L+dali+gcth6312+1042778500 (16 Jan 2003)
3. Bill Cahoon (tour guide/historian). Salvador Dalí Museum: 11 Jan 2003.