Henry J. Kaiser

Henry J. Kaiser Photo

Henry John Kaiser was an industrialist who is better known as the father of modern American shipbuilding. He created Kaiser Shipyard, Kaiser Aluminum and Kaiser Steel. He is one of the most important men in the history of America.

Kaiser was born on 9th May 1882 in Sprout Brook, New York. In his early twenties he ran a photography studio. Using his savings he moved to Washington where he founded a construction company that worked on government contracts. In 1906 he moved to West Coast where he established a paving company that was among the first companies to use heavy machinery for construction. In 1927 the company got a twenty million dollar contract to build roads in Cuba which was a significant point in its expansion. Kaiser’s company was among the top contractors in the construction of the Hoover Dam on Colorado River and the Grand Coulee Dams and the Bonneville Dam on Columbia River.

Even though he had no experience in building ships he made shipyards in Tacoma and Seattle. Instead of going for rivets he decided to use mass production techniques like welding. Henry gained fame due to his Kaiser Shipyard during the Second World War. These ships were called Liberty ships. Kaiser built them using techniques that took only 45 days of construction. His fame skyrocketed when his company started making ships in only 4 days. In 1946 Kaiser established Kaiser Aluminum; the company worked with all aspects of the aluminum such as mining, production and manufacture. He also bought a radio chain and several television stations that he called Kaiser Broadcasting. His business ventures expanded to all over the world; he had hundred companies in forty countries ranging in industries such as chemicals, aluminum, steel, automobiles, concrete, television, radio, banking, real estate development, hotels and so many more. His companies contributed immensely in the growth of cities such as Oakland and Richmond. He realized social needs and provided products and services accordingly. He saw opportunities and took them cleverly as a businessman should. He was truly an entrepreneur whose contributions cannot be overstated. He also made notable contributions in the field of medicine by constructing hospitals, medical schools and medical centers.

Henry J. Kaiser is responsible for the construction of roads, bridges, dams, pipelines and public transport. Kaiser’s entrepreneurial activities played a pivotal role in the creation of prerequisites for prosperity in the modern American West. He is however most famous for his shipbuilding. His speed of work was a big factor for his success. His profits from shipbuilding enabled him to expand in other business sectors. He was an active businessman till the day he died. His hobby was fast boats. Even after his death his family lived a financially untroubled life with the wealth that he left them. Kaiser did not receive any formal education however he made sure that his two sons did along with training in the company.  Kaiser died in 1967 at the age of 85. He was inducted in the California Hall of Fame in 2009.