The Alfred Morton Collection

A collection of Alfred Morton's diaries, journals, books of poetry, notebooks and associated newscuttings.

About Alfred Morton

Alfred Morton (1854-1945) was a Birmingham born bricklayer and poet who emigrated to America in 1871. Morton recorded everything in his life, carefully documenting his everyday life in extensive diaries, including his decision to go West. His diaries paint a vivid portrait of working-class family life in Birmingham straddling two centuries.

Morton crossed the Atlantic ten times and of his twelve children, six were born in the UK and six in America. Upon returning to Britain, he took a job at the age of eighty-four as an oiler in a munitions factory in contribution to the war effort. However, Morton left the role as his employers found out that he was officially an alien, having forgotten to take out British papers when he came back from America where half a century before he had become a naturalised American.

The Mortons eventually lost four of their twelve children, including two to scarlet fever. Alfred Morton recorded everything in his diary even when it portrayed him in a negative light. Also, he was thrifty and recorded the price of everything which provides an interesting insight into late 19th and early 20th century economics. Morton died in 1945 in the UK aged 90 after a road accident.

About the collection

The collection includes diaries dating from 1887-1941 along with an autobiography written by himself from memory and diaries. Several books of poetry are also included.

Finding aid

Online catalogue

Further reading

Obituary: Evening Despatch (Birmingham), 18 May 1945, p. 3. “Bricklayer-poet’s last work – V-poem that he dictated”. (Available in the British Newspaper Archive).

Image gallery

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Page from Alfred Morton's 1898 diary

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Page from Alfred Morton's 1900 diary

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Page from Alfred Morton's 1940 diary

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