Thinking ahead to Morris’ 100th birthday

Published 9:32 am Monday, April 17, 2023

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TRYON–As the 2023 Tryon Horse and Hound Show approaches, let’s recall that our town’s iconic mascot, Morris the Horse, was introduced for that event 95 years ago.

Morris holds a place of honor at the intersection of Trade and Pacolet streets in the center of town. Admiring visitors smile and take his photo, and perhaps read a bit about him on the historic plaque nearby.

The original wooden version was created in 1928 by Odell Peeler and Meredith Lankford, employees of the Tryon Toy Makers. His mission then was to advertise the Tryon Riding and Hunt Club’s horse show at Harmon Field. Over the years, he has come to represent Tryon’s equestrian history as well as its heritage of craftsmanship and artistic traditions.

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Today, we see Morris featured in paintings and books, on T-shirts, hats, coffee mugs, license plates and in a downtown mural in progress. There are scores of Morris mailboxes all around Tryon. Residents love him!

When we love something, we must care for it. Nothing reaches the age of 95 without issues, and Morris has endured some tough times in the past – from fire to neglect to outright abuse. He was given a fiberglass body 40 years ago to better protect him from the elements. His latest restoration took place in 2012, after he was “kidnapped” and held for “ransom.” More than $17,000 was raised to put him in top condition.

Morris looked great then, and still does, but word is that water has seeped inside his frame and more work must be done to prevent greater damage. Such an important figure to our town’s image and reputation can’t be allowed to decline.

A 95th birthday compels us to think ahead five years. When Morris reaches the century mark, he deserves a grand celebration – and not just for a beloved mascot but for the town he represents. It’s time to begin planning.

The Tryon History Museum is engaged in major planning. It makes this promise to the town: Well before 2028, it will offer a first-class museum on Trade Street in downtown Tryon. And one of its exhibits will feature Morris, fully explaining how the cherished steed has been closely associated with our town’s history for nearly 100 years. The newly prominent museum will be another attraction for visitors and a valuable asset for residents and tourists alike.

So, as we honor Morris on his 95th birthday, we must find new ways to promote and explain our town’s wonderful history and its connection to the present and future.


Submitted by the Tryon History Museum