Henry Kaiser Sr. : The Father of Modern American Shipbuilding

One of the foremost American industrialists was Henry John Kaiser Sr. He was born on May 9, 1992 in New York City. During his active years in business, he built seven modern shipyards, cement, steel, automobile, and aluminum factories in addition to hospitals, houses, radio and television stations and a resort in Hawaii. He is also known for the establishment of modern health care organization.

Kaiser’s parents were German immigrants. At the age of 16, he worked in a department store in New York. When he moved to Washington State in 1906, he started a construction company. A year later, he got married. He had two sons with his wife Bess Fosburgh.

In the ensuing years, Kaiser’s construction company fulfilled government contracts to build large projects such as the Hoover, Bonneville, and Grand Coulee dams as well as roads, bridges and levees. He built his own sand and gravel plants including cement plants in order to supply the needs of his construction projects.

During WWII, Kaiser used assembly techniques to build the so-called Liberty Ships in the shortest time possible. His shipbuilding plants in western coast of the US were able to build as many as 1,490 ships for the U.S. naval force. He also built the only integrated iron and steel plant in California to supply the steel needed by his shipyards. In 1946, he established an aluminum plant in Washington State. At the same time, the first cars were rolling out of his automobile plant in Michigan. In 1953, he stopped producing cars but continued to make jeeps.

In 1955, he moved his family to Hawaii where he was involved in the construction of a resort complex. Towards the last years of his life, he established several hospitals as well as radio and television stations.

On August 24, 1967, Kaiser died at the age of 85 in Honolulu. He married twice and he had two sons, Edgar Kaiser, Sr. and Henry Kaiser, Jr.

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