Henry J Kaiser

Henry John Kaiser was born on 9th May 1882 and is known as the father of modern American Shipbuilding. He was an industrialist who set up the Kaiser Shipyard and created Kaiser Aluminium and Kaiser Steel which led to him becoming a millionaire. He was the leader of Kaiser-Frazer and Kaiser Motors, and set up the Kaiser Family Foundation (a charitable organisation) and Kaiser Permanente (healthcare for people that worked for him).

Kaiser was born in Sprout Brook in New York. Early on he worked as an apprentice photographer, and by the time he had reached twenty he was running the company he originally worked for himself. He moved to the state of Washington using his earnings where he set up a construction company for government contracts. He moved to the West Coast in 1906 and founded a company that paved roads in 1914. This company was one of the first to use heavy construction machinery. In 1927 the company grew significantly after getting a $20 million contract to build roads in Cuba. In 1931 the company was a main contractor in the building of Hoover Dam, the Bonneville Dam and the Grand Coulee Dam on the Colorado River, the Bonneville River and the Columbia River. He then went on to establish shipyards in Seattle and Tacoma despite never having built a ship before. These shipyards used mass production techniques like welding over rivets. The Kaiser Shipyard in Richmond, California built Liberty ships during World War Two and it was here that Kaiser Permanente was set up. They used methods that allowed them to produce a cargo ship every 45 days, and these ships were the known as Liberty ships. Later the shipyard was able to build a ship in 4 days, making him world famous. More Kaiser Shipyards were then established in Vancouver and in Oregon.

In 1945 along with Joseph Frazer who was an automobile executive, Kaiser set up a new automobile company known as “Kaiser Motors”. In 1955 the company left the American market and moved onto Brazil and Argentina. He also bough Willys-Overland, a company that made Jeeps. He changed its name originally to Willys Motors, and then to Kaiser-Jeep in 1963. This company was sold to American Motors Corporation in 1970.

In 1946 Kaiser Aluminium was created and in 1948 Kaiser Family Foundation was set up. This was a private charitable organisation that was centred around dealing with key healthcare issues in the United States by providing facts and analysis.

Kaiser passed away on 24th August 1967.

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