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Guide to the Eugene E. Trefethen, Jr. Papers, 1939-1979
BANC MSS 87/35 c  
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Collection Summary
  • Information for Researchers
  • Administrative Information
  • Biographical Chronology
  • Scope and Content

  • Collection Summary

    Collection Title: Eugene E. Trefethen, Jr. Papers,
    Date: ca. 1930-1980
    Collection Number: BANC MSS 87/35 c
    Collector: Trefethen, Eugene E., Jr., 1909-
    Extent: Number of containers: 58 cartons Linear feet: 73.75
    Repository: The Bancroft Library
    Berkeley, California 94720-6000
    Physical Location: For current information on the location of these materials, please consult the Library's online catalog.
    Abstract: Collection contains correspondence, reports, memoranda, financial records, company publications, printed matter, proposals and specifications, and other miscellaneous materials relevant to Kaiser's many business interests.
    Languages Represented: English

    Information for Researchers


    Collection is open for research

    Publication Rights

    Copyright has not been assigned to The Bancroft Library. All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the Head of the Manuscripts Division. Permission for publication is given on behalf of The Bancroft Library as the owner of the physical items and is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which must also be obtained by the reader.

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item], Eugene E. Trefethen, Jr. papers, BANC MSS 87/35 c, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley.

    Related Collections

    Title: Henry J. Kaiser, Sr. Papers,
    Identifier/Call Number: BANC MSS 83/42 c
    Title: Edgar F. Kaiser, Sr. Papers,
    Identifier/Call Number: BANC MSS 85/61 c
    Title: Henry J. Kaiser, Sr. Scrapbooks chiefly concerning his activities in Hawaii,
    Identifier/Call Number: BANC MSS 85/155 cp
    Title: Kaiser Foundation Hospitals--Hawaiian region,
    Identifier/Call Number: BANC MSS 87/131 cp
    Title: Henry J. Kaiser, Jr. Papers,
    Identifier/Call Number: BANC MSS 88/205 c
    Title: Kaiser-Permanente Medical Care Program Records,
    Identifier/Call Number: BANC MSS 91/12 c

    Materials Cataloged Separately

    • Printed materials have been transferred to the book collection of The Bancroft Library.
    • Photographs have been transferred to Pictorial Collections of The Bancroft Library.

    Administrative Information

    Acquisition Information

    The Eugene E. Trefethen, Jr. Papers, which were donated to The Bancroft Library by the Kaiser Aluminum and Chemical Corporation in 1985


    Funding for processing was provided by The Trefethen Foundation.

    Biographical Chronology

    1909 Eugene E. Trefethen, Jr. born on July 27 in Oakland, California, the son of E. E. and Georgia Carroll Trefethen. Met Edgar F. Kaiser when they were junior high school classmates. Attended University High School in Oakland from 1922 to 1926.
    1926 Began working for Henry J. Kaiser as a sand and gravel plant laborer at Livermore, California, during school vacations.
    1930 Graduated from the University of California, Berkeley, with an A.B. degree in Political Science.
    1931 Studied for a year at Harvard Business School. Served as manager of a natural gas pipeline construction project in Montana.
    1932-1934 Became executive assistant to Henry J. Kaiser and worked with him on the Hoover (Boulder) Dam and other construction projects.
    1934 Appointed Vice President and Director of the Industrial Company, organized to dispose of equipment that Kaiser had acquired for building the foundations of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge. Named General Sales Manager of the Sand and Gravel Division of Kaiser Paving Company.
    1936 Elected Secretary of the Henry J. Kaiser Company, which joint-ventured the construction of the Bonneville and Grand Coulee Dams on the Columbia River.
    1937 Married Catherine Morgan on May 7.
    1939 Elected a Director of the Permanente Corporation (later Kaiser Cement and Gypsum Corporation). His daughter, Carla Jean, born on May 10.
    1941-1945 As Vice President of the Henry J. Kaiser Company, he directed the wartime manufacturing of steel, magnesium, and strategic metals.
    1943 His son, John Vance, born on July 15.
    1946-1948 Appointed Vice President of various Kaiser companies, supervising the production of aircraft, aluminum, steel, cement, gypsum, and projects undertaken by Kaiser Engineers.
    1956 After reorganization of the Kaiser enterprises and the creation of Kaiser Industries Corporation as the parent company, he became Executive Vice President of Kaiser Industries Corporation.
    1960 Involved in every aspect of management, including the direction of Kaiser construction projects in Ghana, Australia, and Canada, as well as assisting with Henry J. Kaiser's resort and housing developments in Honolulu.
    1967 After the death of Henry J. Kaiser, Trefethen was elected President of Kaiser Industries Corporation.
    1968 Purchased the 19th century Eshcole estate and 320 adjoining acres in the Napa Valley.
    1968 Received an outstanding achievement in business management award from the University of Southern California, School of Business Administration.
    1973 First Trefethen Vineyards wine produced.
    1974 Retired on July 31 as President of Kaiser Industries Corporation.
    1976 Named honorary alumnus of the College of Engineering, University of California, Berkeley.
    1978-1979 Served as a Trustee for the voluntary liquidation of Kaiser Industries Corporation.
    1979 Presented with Alumnus of the Year Award by the University of California Alumni Association.
    1981 Given Jefferson Award for high ideals and achievement in public service.
    1985 Received United Way Alexis de Tocqueville Society Community Philanthropy Award.
    1988 Named winner of the National Philanthropy Day Award for Outstanding Volunteer Fund Raiser.
    1989 Granted the Berkeley Medal by the University of California, Berkeley.

    Scope and Content

    The Eugene E. Trefethen, Jr. Papers, which were donated to The Bancroft Library by the Kaiser Aluminum and Chemical Corporation in 1985, complete a set of six collections held by The Bancroft Library, which shed light on the industrial empire created by Henry J. Kaiser, Sr. and expanded by sons, Edgar F. and Henry Kaiser Jr. Trefethen, virtually a third son to Henry, Sr. and Bessie Fosburgh Kaiser, was a boyhood friend of Edgar Kaiser. He worked his way up through the ranks from manual laborer and, in time, he became a quiet, supremely competent, behind-the-scenes man for the ebullient Henry Kaiser. After Henry Sr.'s move to Hawaii, Trefethen provided financial expertise and home office continuity, which complemented Edgar's globe-trotting leadership style.
    Trefethen was known to Kaiser employees and the press as an intensely private person and there are few items of a personal nature in this collection. There is no information about his family business, Trefethen Vineyards, located in the Napa Valley. But his volunteer activities as a fund-raiser for Mills College and the University of California at Berkeley, his alma mater, are well-documented in Series 1. There is somewhat less information about his role as a member of the Oakland Symphony Orchestra Association and the San Francisco Bay Area Council. Trefethen gave fewer speeches than the better-known Kaisers. His speeches were generally quite brief and it appears that he drafted most of them himself. The transcripts of his speeches may be found in Series 1.
    The second and third series comprise the most substantial portions of the collection. Series 2 contains corporate files on most of the major Kaiser companies (during the 1960s there were more than one hundred Kaiser companies all around the world). Of particular interest are the World War II era files. Trefethen was, for the most part, located at the Oakland headquarters during the war years, helping to oversee the manufacture of magnesium "goop" for bombs, airplanes (including a joint venture with Howard Hughes), and the Iron and Steel Division of Kaiser Steel Company, Inc. (Kaiser built the West's first steel plant at Fontana, in southern California). Thanks to the continuous exhortations of Henry J. Kaiser, Kaiser executives did not fail to anticipate America's post-war craving for long unavailable consumer goods. Even before the end of the hostilities, Trefethen was involved in planning for the manufacture of automobiles, dishwashers and other kitchen appliances, affordable housing, and building materials such as cement and gypsum.
    Among the major companies represented in Series 2 are the Henry J. Kaiser Company and its divisions, Kaiser Aluminum and Chemical Corporation, Kaiser-Fleetwings Company, Kaiser Foundation and Medical Entities, Kaiser Motors Corporation, and Kaiser Steel Corporation. Since Trefethen was an officer or a member of the board of trustees for virtually all of the major Kaiser companies, he participated in decision-making in both routine matters and emergencies, such as the 1959 Kaiser Steel Company strike.
    Seven countries account for the bulk of the foreign files. These are, in descending order of volume of material: Australia, Argentina, Venezuela, Israel, U.S.S.R., Ghana, and India. Thirty-six other countries are represented by lesser amounts of material. Among the projects documented is Hamersley in Australia, the Guri Dam in Venezuela, and Israel's Dead Sea Works.
    Series 4, the general subject files, contains correspondence, memoranda, reports, financial records, and miscellaneous materials, reflecting the range of interests that this high level executive took the time to follow. These include outside companies (competitors, joint-venture partners, and the financial institutions which provided the funding for Kaiser undertakings), government and politics, including the issues reported on by Chad F. Calhoun, the Kaiser companies' representative in Washington, D.C., and raw materials, including bauxite, coal, iron ore, sand, gravel, and gypsum, which the Kaiser companies utilized in their manufacture of aluminum, steel, and building materials.
    The fifth series, a personal name, corporate name, and subject name index to Trefethen's filing system is, unfortunately, incomplete. There are four boxes of cards, arranged alphabetically, from A-Polysius.
    Edgar F. Kaiser and Eugene E. Trefethen, Jr.'s Kaiser companies files were merged in the early 1960s. For a more complete run of files for the later years, see the Edgar F. Kaiser Papers (BANC MSS 85/61 c).