By Mark Gutglueck
Bert Leslie Morgan was one of San Bernardino’s early industrialists.
Born in Wellington, Ohio on February 17, 1873, Bert Morgan was the son of a farmer. Rather than till the earth, however, on May 15, 1887, at the age of 14, he went to work of the Western Automatic Machine Screw Company in Elyria, Ohio, learning over the next 17 years and four days, all that was then known about manufacturing industrial fasteners.
On May 19, 1904 Western Automatic made him a foreman. For a little less than two years, he remained in that capacity but left Western Automatic on March 1, 1906.
Morgan lived by the maxim that if one is to achieve success, he should work at only that which pleases and interests him. Fascinated as he was with fabricating processes, he acquired a thorough knowledge of his life’s chosen work in every phase and he persisted to keep working hard and saving something from every pay check. In 1906 Bert L. Morgan associated himself with R. D. Perry and W. W. Fay, in the founding of the Perry-Fay Company, of which Mr. Morgan was made general superintendent. The business of this company increased very rapidly, additional capital was secured, and a new and larger plant was built. Morgan remained with the Perry-Fay Company until September 1, 1917.
In the meanwhile, cherishing a desire to have a business of his own, on May 5, 1919, he realized this ambition by opening a machine shop at 938 Third Street in San Bernardino, with two small automatic screw machines and some limited machine tool equipment. This was a small venture, but he knew his business, stuck to it, and laid his plans for the future. On January 12, 1920, he succeeded in having the B. L. Morgan Manufacturing Company Incorporated, with A. E. Ferris, president; W. M. Parker, vice president; J. F. Hosfield, secretary and treasurer; and himself as general manager. On February 26, 1920, the plant was moved to the northeast corner of Rialto and East streets, the premises having been purchased from the San Bernardino Brewing Company. At the annual meeting in January, 1921, the following officials were elected: A. E. Ferris, president; B. L. Morgan, vice president and general manager; and E. E. Katz, secretary and treasurer. Shortly thereafter, on account of ill health, Mr. Katz resigned and R. G. Dromberger was elected as secretary and treasurer of the company.
When the B. L. Morgan Manufacturing Company was incorporated, the monthly sales averaged just $1,000, but in two years the sales multiplied to average $8,000 monthly. At the time of incorporation, the working force was comprised of Mr. Morgan and one helper. By 1922, the company employed twenty-two, with the plant’s premises covering 2,100 square feet. At that point, the company boasted fourteen automatic screw machines, ranging in capacity from three-eighths to two and one-half inches. The company produced a variety of screw machine products, among which were hexagon, square, fillister and button head cap screws; square head and headless set screws; thumb screws; collar screws; hexagon nuts; stubs and pins; screws and turned metal parts for scientific instruments, clock, watch, optical, gun, electric, camera, typewriter, adding machine, automobile, aeroplane and tractor work; spark plug parts; hardened and ground work; all articles turned from silver, aluminum, bronze, brass or steel rods; also taps, dies and gauges. Morgan in 1922 promoted William A. Schiller to the position of general manager.
Morgan’s concern also manufactured high quality of tools.
Morgan was married first to Nellie M. Shute, who was born at Elyria, Ohio, and died May 5, 1912, leaving three children: Victor S., who was born April 25, 1894, and himself became a machinist and tool maker who was largely associated with his father in business. He married Marjory Vogler of Elyria, Ohio. They had two children, Rosemary and Robert. Ruth O., who was born May 5, 1800, became the wife of E. A. Ledyard, of San Bernardino. They had three children, Jean Ellen, Wayne and Philip. Edwin L., who was born October 8, 1899, enlisted in the headquarters company of the Fifth Marines on April 19, 1917, and sailed for France on August 5 of that year. He fought throughout the war with the famous Second Division. He went through all engagements and the only wound he received was a scratch on the leg.
He was awarded a medal for bravery in action, and was discharged in August, 1919, returning to New York just two years after he sailed. Upon returning home he engaged with the Standard Oil Company in San Bernardino.
In April, 1917, Bert Morgan married Miss Lura Potter, a native of Ashtabula. Ohio, and a daughter of Eugene M. Potter. They had four children: Louise Alice, Anna E., David E. and Bert, Junior. Bert, Junior went on to work as a tool and die Maker at Faultless Caster in Evansville, Indiana for 59 years until his retirement in 1998. He died on August 15, 2015.
Bert Morgan devoted himself so exclusively to business that he had but little time for outside matters, although he did take an interest in local affairs. Sound and dependable, he held a lifetime membership of Lodge No. 836, Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks, of the Knights of the Maccabees, the Royal Arcanum, Huron Tribe, No. 200, Red Men, and of the Rotary Club. He was a member of the board of directors of the San Bernardino Chamber of Commerce, vice president of the Manufacturing and Wholesalers Association of San Bernardino, vice president and general manager of the Sta-tite Nut Company, and held an intereste in the M. & M. Manufacturing Company of Wilmington in Los Angeles County, a general machine and manufacturing institution, and was president of the Board of Health at Elyria, Ohio, during the epidemic of contagious diseases.
In the 1930s, Morgan, who had maintained a presence in Ohio a few months out of the year while living in California, relocated to Indiana, where he died in 1959.
By Mark Gutglueck