Henry J. Kaiser Summary

  • Last updated on November 10, 2022

Kaiser achieved renown through the innovative techniques he introduced to the many operations that he developed. His interests included construction, engineering, medicine, automobile manufacturing, and community development.

Henry J. Kaiser left school at the age of thirteen and began working in a dry goods store in Utica, New York. He soon developed a particular interest in hardware and photography. In 1901, before he was twenty, he bought his own photography store and studio in Lake Placid, New York. Using that town as his base, he traveled seasonally to the state of Florida, working as a photographer. In 1907, when he was twenty-five, he married. To overcome his father-in-law’s objections to his itinerant life as a photographer, he moved west to Spokane, Washington, where he took a job clerking in a hardware store. This work led him into the contracting field. In 1914, he started his own road-paving firm in Vancouver, Canada. His company, which pioneered in the use of heavy machinery, began building roads throughout the West and was the first to build concrete roads in Cuba. Revenue from his Cuba operation allowed him to expand his operations. During the late 1920’s, his firm was one of the major contractors that helped build the Hoover and Grand Coulee dams. Around that time, he expanded his operations into gravel and cement production.Kaiser, Henry J.

Kaiser’s expansion into shipbuilding during World War II led to his earning a worldwide reputation for innovative engineering. Kaiser ShipyardKaiser Shipyard in Richmond, California, turned out Liberty ships as the rate of one every thirty days. In 1942, his company set a record by completing an entire ship in only four days. One of his significant innovations was using welding rather than riveting to join large metal parts. He was also innovative in hiring women as welders. However, it was his general streamlining of shipbuilding assembly that was responsible for his company’s high production rate.

As the war was nearing its end, Kaiser began expanding into other fields, including the manufacture of aluminum, gypsum, and household products, and the construction of homes. His biggest new operation was automobile manufacturing. That branch of his industrial empire ultimately failed, but his Jeep division lived on. Meanwhile, during his shipbuilding years, Kaiser had established an innovative health program for his workers. In 1945, the program was made available to the public. Called Kaiser PermanenteKaiser Permanente, the plan would become been a model for health maintenance organizations globally.

During the mid-1950’s, Kaiser turned to what would be the final phase of his busy career. He moved to Hawaii and developed the Kaiser (later Hilton) Hawaiian Village. He spent the rest of his life in Hawaii, where he supervised the construction of what he regarded as his dream city, while leaving one of his sons in charge of his other interests.

Automotive industry

Construction industry

Health care industry

Categories: History