Kaiser, Henry J.

Kaiser, Henry J. (John)

(1882–1967) industrialist; born in Canajoharie, N.Y. Leaving school at age 13, he became a photographer's apprentice, then bought the business at age 20. In 1907 he moved west to work for a Spokane, Wash., construction company. In 1914 he started his own construction business in Vancouver, Canada, and began a career building government-funded projects including 300 miles of highway in Cuba. In 1931 he organized the combine that built the Hoover Dam; he built the piers for the Oakland-San Francisco Bay Bridge; he built the Parker, Bonneville, and Grand Coulee Dams; and he produced the cement for the Shasta Dam (1939). In 1939 he began building ships in Seattle and Tacoma. During World Ward II his shipyards built some 1,460 Liberty ships for the U.S. Navy with great technical innovation and speed. He founded his own steel company, an aircraft company with Howard Hughes, Kaiser Aluminum, and Kaiser Community Homes Corp. The automobile company he formed with Joseph W. Frazer in 1945 produced some models but ceased production in the U.S.A. in 1954. He excelled at labor relations, and in 1942 founded what has become the largest American health maintenance organization in the country, now known as Kaiser Permanente.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.