Celebrating the 100th Anniversary of Burt Morgan's Birth
If Burt Morgan were alive today, he would be celebrating his 100th birthday on July 27, 2016. Morgan passed away on March 6, 2003 following a long and illustrious career as entrepreneur, inventor, and philanthropist. Among his important legacies is Burton D. Morgan Foundation, a private foundation located in Hudson, Ohio, that serves the Northeast Ohio region as champion of the entrepreneurial spirit.
As Morgan Foundation recognizes this important centennial anniversary, the organization is also preparing to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Foundation's establishment in 1967. In conjunction with this milestone, Burton D. Morgan Foundation will later this year release a web-based timeline chronicling the life of Burt Morgan and the five-decade evolution of the Foundation that carries on the founder's vision for a national economy that empowers its citizens to pursue their entrepreneurial dreams. The timeline will connect major events in Morgan's life and the Foundation's history to key inventions and innovations released during this time period.
As a preview of the timeline, Morgan Foundation has selected a few inventions that capture the state of technology at the time of Morgan's birth in 1916. He was born at the height of the global struggles precipitated by World War I (1914-1918) and this age of warfare contributed to the nature of several of the inventions and technologies introduced in his birth year. Several key war-related innovations were developed during Morgan’s infancy:
*The British Army was responsible for inventing the military tank in 1916 as a means of infiltrating enemy lines in an armored vehicle that could navigate rough terrain.
* Wartime facilitated the development of technologies related to air traffic control, with 1916 marking the introduction of a pilot's helmet featuring earphones and built-in microphone.
Other inventions of note included Cutex (Northam Warren), inspired by automobile paint, as the first liquid nail polish product. Another great idea introduced in 1916 was the hamburger bun, a creation of Walter Anderson, who later founded White Castle. The invention of the hamburger bun may be most fortuitously connected to Burton Morgan and his serendipitous invention of the hamburg sizzler. The story begins with a trip the Morgans and their children took in the late 1940s. The kids, he would later recall, were squabbling in the back seat. In those days, door handles were levers, and he feared one of the kids would accidentally step on the lever and fall out of the car. So he developed a 4-inch metal disk in the shape of a dish with a pin in the center. An adult could grasp it and twist open the door, but it was too large for a child’s hand. And because there was no lever action, it prevented an accident.
Morgan invested more than $2,000 dollars – what he described as the “family fortune” at the time – to have 5,000 of the safety discs made. But they didn’t sell. Gas stations weren’t interested. Neither were automotive chain stores. He tried to think of other uses. Remove the pin in the middle and make them into coasters? What about ashtrays? Instead, the 5,000 safety handles remained in his basement and haunted him. Then came the day Peg Morgan was making hamburger patties for dinner, and Morgan realized the patties were exactly the same size as the safety door-hand discs—minus the stem in the middle, which could be easily removed.
He suggested forming the ground meat into the metal discs and then broiling the burgers in the oven. The container would keep the juices in the burger and make it moist. Thus was born what Morgan dubbed the hamburg sizzler.
About that time, Peg Morgan was hoping for a shopping trip to New York. Her husband offered to pay for the trip if she would try and sell the hamburg sizzler. She managed to get to see the buyer in a specialty store. He liked the sizzler and ordered 5,000. That was not the end of the story. The sizzlers sold so well, the specialty store buyer ordered another 10,000, and Burt Morgan had to retool to fulfill the order.
Morgan Foundation's historical timeline will reveal many more wonderful stories from the life, times, and inventions of Burt Morgan, along with the creations of other talented innovators. Deborah Hoover, president and CEO of the Foundation shared, "Today we celebrate the birth date of our colorful and multifaceted founder Burt Morgan. As many of the stories we have shared in the past illustrate, his life was full and active, providing many lessons and revelations that continue to inspire and influence Morgan Foundation's work as an ecosystem builder and promoter of the promise of entrepreneurship. We will be very excited to release our anniversary timeline in the fall with more tales from Mr. Morgan's prolific and fascinating life."