Facts about Henry J. Kaiser

Henry J. Kaiser died at 85 years old
Born: May 9, 1882
Died: August 24, 1967
Best known as: The shipbuilder who founded Kaiser-Permanente

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Henry J. Kaiser Biography

Name at birth: Heinrich Kaiser

Henry John Kaiser was an American entrepreneur who made his fortune in the industrial boom of the first half of the 20th century, and who founded the medical care company now known as Kaiser-Permanente.

A child of immigrants, he was raised in New York, left school at the age of 13 and went to work. He moved to Washington state in 1906, worked¬†for a cement contractor as a salesman and project manager, then launched his own paving business in 1914. Kaiser’s great talent lay in getting government contracts, first in the building boom of the 1920s (his company’s first big job was building roads in Cuba), then during the New Deal era of the 1930s and the wartime era of the 1940s.

Kaiser’s many endeavors included the Hoover (Boulder) Dam, the Grand Coulee Dam, the Bonneville Dam and the Shasta Dam; the piers for the San Francisco-to-Oakland Bay Bridge; a steel company; an aluminum company; an aircraft company; an automobile company; and, during World War II, shipyards that turned out nearly 1500 “Liberty Ships” for the United States Navy. He settled in Hawaii in his later years and developed real estate.

Ambitious and innovative, Kaiser was also known for his friendly relationship with workers. The medical facilities he originally opened for his employees in 1942 was a model for the earliest Health Maintenance Organization (HMO), and now Kaiser-Permanente is one of the largest providers of health care on the West Coast.


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