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Trophy Room.
Dead animal trophies of dead big game hunters.

Morse Wildlife Museum (Gone)

Field review by the editors.

Warren, New Hampshire

If you're worried about what to do with all the souvenirs and memorabilia you collect while on vacation, take a lesson from the Morse family. Ira H. Morse, wife Lillian and brother Dr. Richard Morse traveled around the world shooting animals, buying strange artifacts, and bringing them back to the tiny town of Warren, where all could see them in a free museum open since 1928.

Hollowed-out elephant legs.
Hollowed-out elephant legs.

This large old house was actually a single gallery with animal heads, legs, and skin flaps mounted up to the high ceiling. It was very quiet. The hunters were long dead. Everything here was dead. Two dessicated mummies, possibly hapless native guides or traffic accident victims, were curled in their respective glass cases -- smuggled out of Egypt in 1931.

Ira Morse dreamed of killing African animals as a boy. After establishing a successful New England retail shoe business, he mounted six safaris to the dark continent, then mounted his Big Game trophies for New Hampshire to enjoy.

The Morse Museum was packed with junk, but it was fun junk. Some examples: chips from the roulette table at Monte Carlo, a cigar humidor made from a rhino foot, Hindo toe bells, shields made from elephant ears, genuine tse tse flies in a box, a piece of cake "served to Mrs. Morse by a Japanese princess in Tokyo," a blanket from Hermann Goering's private train, and "flea chasers used by the Fuzzy Wuzzy tribe." There were lots of shoes -- over 200 pairs, from exotic lands, shoes for bound feet, shoes made from the skin of a zebra that Lillian bagged.

The Morses seemed to have had a penchant for hollowing out the feet of the larger animals they bagged and using them as umbrella stands and garbage cans (we've since noted this practice in other wildlife collections). The Morse Museum was a place out of joint with current PC animal sensitivity. But someone appreciated the family's globe-girdling adventures. We noticed, along the wall, a certificate of thanks presented to the Morses from Pan Am Airlines....

This report described our visit in 1991. The Morse Museum closed in 1992, the contents auctioned off to a private collector, the building hollowed out like a bull elephant's trophy leg. A visitor reports: "The building is now privately owned... and used as an ice-cream stand in the summer."

August 2004: Grandson Robert Warren Morse has written a book with many photos on the founding of the Morse Museum and a biography of its former owners, Ira H. Morse, and his father, Philip M. Morse.

Robert provided this tidbit to us on the fate of the mummies: "The latest that I heard was the fellow that bought one of them had a store called, 'Nonesuch House Antiques' in Wiscasset Maine. Well, again the latest I heard was the store is closed. My spies tell me it was boarded up the last time they were through the town."

Morse Wildlife Museum


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