Morris Adler


View of the Morris Adler House and Georgetown Heights, circa 1850, by William H. Dougal.  (Peabody Room, Georgetown Branch Library)



The Morris Adler House (1821 Wisconsin Avenue), as it appeared shortly before demolition in 1938. (Peabody Room, Georgetown Branch Library)




When the Morris Adler House (just south of what is now the Georgetown Safeway) was razed in 1938, Morris Adler had been dead sixty-five years. Adler died Sunday, March 30, 1873, “in the seventy-fourth year of his age”, and the funeral was from his house on the following Tuesday.

Adler’s obituary relates that he was born in Schenklengsfeld, Hesse-Cassel, on October 20, 1799, and that the young man had studied English so well in Cassel that when he arrived in this country in 1816, he was immediately employed as a clerk to Gen. John Mason at the Columbia Foundry, west of Georgetown. In 1831 Adler set up in business for himself, but was bankrupted by fire. He repaid all his debts, and in 1832 entered government service in the Jackson Administration, at the War Department.   (Georgetown Courier, April 19, 1873)


In 1833, when German United Evangelical Concordia Congregation, a union of German Lutheran and Reformed churches, was founded at 1920 G Street NW, Morris Adler was one of its signatories. (Archives of Concordia United Church of Christ)


From 1832 to 1869, Adler held the position as a clerk in the Ordnance Office of the War Department, earning “$1,150 per annum”.

The 1834 Full Directory for Washington City, Georgetown, and Alexandria listed Morris Adler as living on the north side of Gay (N) Street.


“Married on Thursday last by Rev. Mr. Wilson, Mr. Morris Adler to Miss Malvina Lutz, second daughter of John Lutz, all of Georgetown.” (National Intelligencer, October 9, 1827)


Adler’s father-in-law was John Lutz, Saddle, Trunk, & Harness Maker, High Street, a veteran of the American Revolution.

The 1840 census shows the Adlers, with three children, and two slaves, living on Gay (N) Street. They were John Mercer Adler, born 1828; Mary Virginia Adler, born 1830; and Maurice Julius Adler, born 1835.

In 1840 Adler acquired property north of Road (R) Street: heirs of John Baltzer to Morris Adler, land out of Rock of Dumbarton, which Thomas Beall sold to John Baltzer in 1802; also lots 11 and 12 of The Slip, abutting Hyde’s land. (DC Liber WB 82 (1840) f. 333/229)

Maurice Julius Adler, born 1835, was baptized in 1843, at 298 High Street (1821 Wisconsin Avenue).

Mary Virginia Adler, born 1830, married William Henry Dougal in 1851. Morris Adler built the Dougal House (3259 R Street) for his daughter and her husband. (HABS File, Washington, District of Columbia; Mathilde Williams notes, Peabody Room, Georgetown Branch Library)


Across High Street (Wisconsin Avenue), the house sitting high on the bank was for many years the home of Mr. William Dougal and his family of one son and four lovely daughters. His wife was Miss Adler, and this house was built on part of her father’s property. The old brick house, which was back of it some distance north, was the home of Morris Adler. A small frame house nearer Road (R) Street was where his son, Morris J. Adler, lived, until he built a house on West (P) Street.

(Grace Dunlop Ecker, A Portrait of Old George Town, p. 125)


Malvena Elizabeth (Lutz) Adler died 1852. Morris Adler married Mary Catherine Kurtz, December 21, 1854; she died in 1898.

In 1862, at the time of the emancipation of District of Columbia slaves, Morris Adler filed for compensation for three slaves: John Smallwood (28), Susan Norris (35), and Ann Bowie (22).

1855 Assessments: 8 acres. 1865 Assessments, lot 42, Beatty and Hawkins’ addition to Georgetown, two-story brick mansion.

In 1866, after fifty years in Georgetown, Adler was elected to the Association of Oldest Inhabitants.

Morris Adler, who died March 30, 1873, is buried in Oak Hill Cemetery.






“Exterior of leather-covered wooden trunk dated 1838 belonging to Morris Adler of Georgetown. Manufactured by John Lutz, Saddle, Trunk, & Harness Maker, High Street (Wisconsin Avenue), Georgetown. The 1834 Full Directory for Washington City, Georgetown, and Alexandria listed Adler occupation as a clerk in the Ordinance Department who lived on the north side of Gay (N) Street.”  (Peabody Room, Georgetown Branch Library. Text and photo by Jerry A. McCoy.)




“Detail of nameplate engraved “M. Adler Geo Town DC” on lid of leather-covered wooden trunk dated 1838 belonging to Morris Adler of Georgetown. Manufactured by John Lutz, Saddle, Trunk, & Harness Maker, High Street (Wisconsin Avenue), Georgetown.”  (Peabody Room, Georgetown Branch Library. Text and photo by Jerry A. McCoy.)



Morris Adler’s Sons


Morris Adler’s older son, John Mercer Adler, born August 9, 1828, studied medicine.

“In 1852 went to Panama as surgeon of the railroad company, with his classmate, Fountain, who left there in 1853 on account of impaired health and located at Davenport, Iowa, where Adler joined him in 1855. On the breaking out of the Civil War he was appointed United States surgeon of the Military Establishment of the State of Iowa, and continued in charge to the close of the war, in 1865. Then removed to Philadelphia and continued in successful practice of his profession till his death, February 11, 1904, in his seventy-fifth year. In 1857 married Harriet B. Gilbert, of Philadelphia, who, with three daughters survived him.”

(Class of 1847: The Centennial Class, College of New Jersey, Princeton University, 1907)


Morris Adler’s younger son was Maurice Julius Adler (May 6, 1835 – February 26, 1912). The 1861-1865 City Directory listed M.J. Adler and Company as hardware merchants on Bridge (M) Street in Georgetown. In the 1870 census, Maurice J. Adler was listed as a retired hardware merchant. In the 1880 census he was living at 3259 R Street.


Maurice J. Adler Is Dead.––Prominent Business Man of Georgetown Will Be Buried Tomorrow.

Maurice J. Adler, one of the oldest residents and most widely known business men of Georgetown, died shortly before 7 o’clock yesterday morning at his home, 3125 P Street Northwest. Mr. Adler suffered an attack of kidney trouble about two weeks ago and had been confined to his bed since that time. Until the development of this attack, however, he was actively engaged in his business.

Born in Georgetown, May 6, 1835 where his father had located on coming to this country from Germany. Mr. Adler obtained his education in the public schools of this city. He left school, however, while quite young and took a position with Stewart Muncaster, a hardware merchant. After serving in various capacities with this house, the young man gained control of the business when about 25 years of age. The business continued to grow and at the outbreak of the Civil War the new proprietor secured remunerative contracts with the Federal government to furnish supplies.

Mr. Adler’s activities were not confined to the hardware business. At the time of his death he was Vice President of the Farmers and Mechanics Bank of Georgetown; Vice President of the Georgetown Gaslight Company, a Director of the Capital Traction Company, the Union Trust Company and the Fireman’s Insurance Company; President of the Masonic Hall Association and a trustee of the Oak Hill Cemetery Company.

He joined the Masonic order when a young man and was one of the oldest members of Potomac Lodge. He is survived by his wife, Mrs. Gertrude H. Adler and two daughters, Mrs. S. Percy Thompson and Mrs. C.M. Newman. The funeral will take place at 2 o’clock tomorrow afternoon from the home. Rev. James H.W. Blake, rector of Christ Protestant Episcopal Church of which Mr. Adler was a vestryman will conduct the services. Burial will be in Oak Hill Cemetery.

(Washington Post, February 27, 1912, p. 4)





Carlton Fletcher

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