M.G. Gordon (August 10, 1915 - February 16, 1969) was a Chicago businessman, inventor, and social theorist. Gordon also was a futurist and an advocate for privacy rights, a cause that he advocated through his writings and public speaking during the 1960s. Gordon built several profitable businesses during the years of the Great Depression. He also designed and created a safety lever device for hydraulic machine presses to improve worker safety. This was first put to use in his primary manufacturing facility. Then, during the 1930s and thereafter, mechanical production engineers copied and put Gordon's development to use in factories throughout the Midwest. As an industrialist during the 1940s and 1950s, Gordon adopted various public service social policies that benefited the families of workers.
During the relatively low-tech era of telephone party lines, Gordon predicted the advent of such modern day telecommunication advances as hand held, personal phones that would bounce their signals off of satellites. Gordon also was an astute evaluator of commercial value within the communication industry. He accumulated a large investment portfolio by the time that he quit the business world due to a heart attack at 46. Gordon died at 54.
Admitted to the University of Chicago at 16, he began honing his entrepreneurial skills during the depression years and went on to study law at night at the Chicago-Kent College of Law, now the law school of the Illinois Institute of Technology.
In the 1930s Gordon went into business for himself, starting up the United Packing & Gasket Company. His factory, located in Cicero, originally was a government confiscated Al Capone distillery during the Volstead Act years. Gordon's company manufactured gaskets and other components for the automotive industry. During World War II Gordon refitted his operation to produce replacement parts for U.S. military vehicles and speaker rings for battlefield radios. In the post sputnik period, Gordon manufactured specially designed absorbent parts used for the U.S. Government rocket program.
While Gordon was expanding his gasket company, he helped grow the Gordon family food processing operation and his other investment interests to purchase a paper mill in Hannibal, Missouri, the boyhood home of author Mark Twain and the locale for his two most famous novels, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Gordon used the paper products manufactured at this Missouri plant in the production of gaskets and related items at his Illinois factory.
At the same time that Gordon was expanding his gasket and paper manufacturing operations, he also retained ownership rights in the W.O. Sommers food processing company as well as his future interest in the sugar supply company which his partner maintained. When Victor Gordon died, his rights to the well-established W.O. Sommers Company passed on to his three children, including M.G. Gordon.
Gordon's abiding concern for the welfare of his workers led the industrialist to conceive of a pay benefit that he made available to his employees and their families. Many of Gordon's workers would socialize at a local tavern after work on payday Fridays, and then proceed to a nearby racetrack after drinks. There, some of the workers would gamble and occasionally lose their entire paychecks. To mitigate this problem, Gordon instituted a singular social exchange in which the spouses of his workers could come to the plant early on Fridays and get 50 percent advances on the weekly salaries of their mates. This policy ensured that the families of workers who gambled would still have money for bills and expenses. As a result of his progressive worker friendly policies, Gordon's workers never unionized or struck his plants during his lifetime.
During World War II, the U.S. government rationed many vital commodities. Gordon's plant required large quantities of cork, a controlled item, and a necessary raw material for the gaskets that were manufactured there for the domestic market. To solve this raw materials shortage Gordon developed a process to create synthetic cork from crushed peanut shells. Like his machine press improvement, Gordon allowed his patentable rights for this process to vest in the public domain.
Gordon developed a social/psychological theory that, thanks to the telephone, people can feel free to exhibit two personalities - one for everyday life conversation and another goal directed personality for business and professional exchange. Indeed, because the customary cues that differentiate individuals have little or no relevance during telephone conversations, people can feel free to adopt various enhanced personas over the phone that would be psychologically impossible for them to assume during face-to-face conversations. "On the phone, you are able to become the very best person that you can possibly be," Gordon said. During his retirement, Gordon conducted pro bono discussion groups of these ideas with students at the University of Wisconsin, the University of Oklahoma and Baylor University. Until his death, Gordon followed up with participating students to assess their progress in implementing these ideas with annual telephone calls.
Gordon's early prognostications regarding assumed personalities in virtual environments have relevance in today's highly wired world. Many people now routinely adopt enhanced personalities during email, Internet chat sessions, text messaging, and related electronic communication venues that reflect their ideal selves.
During the 1950s, Gordon anticipated the modern era of cell phones. He believed that people would eventually possess their own wireless, handheld telephonic devices; and that such equipment would communicate back and forth via satellite transmissions. Of course, Gordon's prescient views regarding telephony are now a commercial reality. Although one idea that he had, which was that people at birth would be assigned their own individual phone numbers for life, is no closer to becoming reality now than when Gordon first proposed it in the 1950s. Before he died, Gordon was writing a book, to be entitled Success at Arm's Reach.
The first telephone call Gordon received during his Highland Park convalescence was from someone attempting to sell cemetery plots. This energized him to quickly take up the cause of privacy rights. Gordon began to think about the issue of privacy in the broader context of civil rights. For Gordon, unsolicited calls from sales and similar organizations, trying to peddle their products, services and (sometimes crackpot) causes over the phone, represented a rank invasion of privacy.
Additionally, Gordon believed that the instantaneous accessibility the phone made possible represented a dangerous potential that a foreign government or any unscrupulous commercial entity, could easily abuse. (of course, Gordon's heightened privacy concerns during the 1960s parallel the level of umbrage - indeed, even outrage - that exists today regarding the annoying automated telephone calls and E-mail spam that people must endure.) Gordon began to write about this topic. one of his articles, entitled "Invasion of Privacy: The Unsolicited Telephone Call," was published in the International Journal of Law and Science. Gordon also became an active public speaker on the topic of privacy rights. One presentation he made on this topic was before a meeting of the International Academy of Law and Science. Gordon worked to disseminate his views on privacy rights in other ways. This included interviews on American and Canadian radio stations.
In addition to privacy rights, Gordon also advocated civil and political rights. During the 1960s, he tried to help an oppressed family flee Communist Czechoslovakia. At the time Czechoslovakia was a brutal police state that did not permit normal immigration. Gordon's assistance involved communicating in code with the Czech family through the pre-arranged placement of different-imaged postage stamps on airmail letters. Unfortunately, despite Gordon's concerted efforts, the Czech family was unable to escape from the Iron Curtain country.