Burton Davis Morgan was a successful entrepreneur who personally started or supported the launch of dozens of businesses during his lifetime. He was born in 1916 in New York City, but eventually settled in the Chicago area where his father taught psychology at Northwestern University. As youngsters, he and his brother spent their summers at their grandparents’ farm in Indiana. Throughout his life, Morgan considered himself “just a farm boy.” In reality, he was an engineer, an inventor, an author, and a philanthropist.
Mr. Morgan moved to Ohio following his graduation from Purdue University to begin his first job at B.F. Goodrich in Akron. Morgan left Goodrich when the company declined to select him as a future company leader. He landed at Johnson & Johnson in New Jersey, where he was assigned the task of designing a machine to make junior-size Band Aids. What he called the “sticky paper” business would become his stock and trade.
In 1953, he teamed up with the Avery Label Company of California to start a company in Painesville, Ohio. Morgan convinced his partners that the pressure-adhesive paper company -- known as Fasson -- should be near Akron, where some of the world’s best rubber and adhesive compounds were made. Fasson found success when it began manufacturing an adhesive-backed product similar to Contact paper. In 1958, Morgan partnered with the owners of the Bemis Bag Company, once the world’s largest importer of burlap, and founded the Morgan Adhesives Co. in Stow. Burt and Peg Morgan and their three children moved to nearby Hudson, which had been settled by one of Peg Morgan’s ancestors.
In the early 1960s, Morgan invested in another start-up, Filmco, which developed an oxygen-permeable cellophane that helped revolutionize the way meat was packaged in supermarkets. When that company was bought by R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. in 1967, Morgan’s small investment made him a multimillionaire. That same year, The Burton D. Morgan Foundation was established.
During the decades Morgan operated his companies, he traveled around the world with an organization of corporate leaders and as a business ambassador on behalf of the State of Ohio. He returned home each time with a conviction: entrepreneurship and the free enterprise system “comprise America’s number one advantage over the rest of the world.” That conviction strengthened as the years went on. And as it did, the Foundation that Morgan established began to focus its resources on grants to promote entrepreneurship and the free enterprise system.
“. . . failure never stopped anyone who was truly determined to succeed. I have found that entrepreneurs’ failures are often more interesting than their successes, and these failures help to develop the character and intelligence that eventually led them to success. An entrepreneur who fails is not stopped. He or she can always try again. And successful entrepreneurs always do.” ~ Burton D. Morgan, Start at the Top (1982)