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Guide to the Henry J. Kaiser, Jr. Papers, 1937-1961
BANC MSS 88/205 c  
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Collection Summary
  • Information for Researchers
  • Administrative Information
  • Biography
  • Scope and Content

  • Collection Summary

    Collection Title: Henry J. Kaiser, Jr. Papers,
    Date (inclusive): 1937-1961
    Collection Number: BANC MSS 88/205 c
    Collector: Kaiser, Henry J., 1917-1961
    Extent: Number of containers: 8 cartons, 1 portfolio Linear feet: 10
    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 business and personal correspondence, speeches, subject files.
    Languages Represented: English

    Information for Researchers


    The collection is open for use.

    Publication Rights

    Copyright has 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], Henry J. Kaiser, Jr. papers, BANC MSS 88/205 c, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley.

    Materials Cataloged Separately

    • Photographs have been transferred to Pictorial Collections of The Bancroft Library.

    Administrative Information

    Acquisition Information

    The Henry J. Kaiser, Jr. Papers, 1937-1961, were donated to The Bancroft Library, October 21, 1987 by Henry J. Kaiser III.


    Henry J. Kaiser, Jr. was born February 18, 1917 at Everett, Washington. He received his early schooling in the Oakland, Californiapublic school system. A 1940 graduate of Stanford University, he was a member of the Kaiser organization's policy-making team, along with his father, Henry, Sr., his brother, Edgar, and Eugene E. Trefethen.
    From 1939 through 1951 he moved from one coast to another, largely as demanded by the Kaiser companies tremendous war time efforts. His first job with the Kaiser Companies was in San Jose, Californiaas project engineer during the building of the Permanente Cement Plant. He participated in the largest and fastest production of ships in world history, accomplished by the Kaiser shipyards during World War II. He was administrative manager of one of these yards at Richmond, California, where 30,000 workers turned out 368 Liberty and Victory ships for the war effort. During the same war period, he was administrative manager of the Kaiser Steel plant at Fontana, California and later took over direction and reorganization of the Brewster Aeronautical Corporation at Bristol, Pennsylvania. This was at the request of the U.S. Navy, which was striving to unsnarl production lines for its Corsair fighter planes. Although only 26 at the time, Kaiser took charge of the Brewster operation, which had a dismal record of production failures and labor strife. Seven managers had preceded him and total production of the critically needed Navy plane during the previous month was only four aircraft. Under his direction, a total of 127 planes was turned out within the next three months and production rose to a peak of 123 per month in less than a year.
    The following year, 1944, an even greater and more personal challenge was dealt him. While in charge of the Kaiser-operated Denver and Fontana artillery shell plants, he was afflicted with multiple sclerosis. Rather than submit to a prescribed program of rest, Henry characteristically plunged into a program of intensive physical therapy, continuing his full work-day schedule.
    After the war, Kaiser moved to Los Angeles to manage the Kaiser-Frazier division of Kaiser Motors Corporation. In 1951 he transferred to the Oakland offices of the Kaiser organization to take a more active role in overall management, and in 1954 he assumed responsibility for Kaiser Companies' worldwide public relations program.
    He developed into a popular motivational speaker on a variety of topics--education, public relations, faith, personal and societal values, and, of course, multiple sclerosis. Many of his speeches were published in a variety of magazines, among them Reader's Digest and Guideposts, or printed as leaflets by the Kaiser Companies for later distribution.
    He was a recipient of the 1959 George Washington Honor Medal, presented by the Valley Forge Freedom Foundationsfor his contribution to the nation's spiritual values. Also in 1959 he was chosen Education Association Layman of the Year by the Alameda County (Calif.) Education Association and in 1960 was named Oakland's Outstanding Citizen of the Year. He held an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from the University of Portland, Oregon.
    Henry J. Kaiser, Jr. served as chairman of Oakland's Public Advisory Committee on Education (PACE). He was a director of the National Safety Council, and the California Safety Foundation, and chairman of the Oakland Workreation Committee. He served as chairman of the Division of Parish Day Schools, Department of Education of the Episcopal Diocese of California. In addition, he was a member of the board of directors of the Oakland Museums Association. He was western vice-president of the American Public Relations Association and a member of the Public Relations Society of America.He belonged to the Claremont Country Club, San Francisco's Press & Union Club,and the Jonathan Club of Los Angeles, among others.
    Kaiser was married twice. Two daughters, Janie Leeand Marylou resulted from his first marriage to Jane Walkup. Remarried in 1947 to the former Barbara Preininger, they had one son, Henry J. Kaiser III.
    Henry J. Kaiser, Jr. died May 3, 1961 in Oakland, California. He was entombed in the Mountain View Cemetery Mausoleum.

    Scope and Content

    The Henry J. Kaiser, Jr. Papers contains personal and business correspondence, interoffice memoranda, speeches, and personal papers. It also contains the files of an Oakland education advocacy group, the Public Advisory Committee on Education (PACE),of which Henry J. Kaiser, Jr. was chair.
    Correspondence, the bulk of the collection, covers both personal and business matters. Since public relations was his responsibility at Kaiser, much of the correspondence with Kaiser Company employees was on that topic, notably Chandler Young, H. Walton Cloke, Chad F. Calhoun, and Lambreth HandyHancock, among other public relations people.
    Several of his principal correspondents were personal friends: Jack Mullin, a Kaiser employee not involved in public relations; Virgil Pinkley, a southern California newspaper publisher; Edward Truman, a Hollywood musician; and William S. Long, a southern California business executive. Their letters primarily concern personal affairs, but Kaiser reveals details of his roles in various Kaiser companies. During the war years, Mullin, Long, and Varick Vic Martin served in the armed forces and their letters to Kaiser describe that experience.
    As a result of the Kaiser family search for medical answers to Henry Kaiser, Jr.'s illness and subsequent endowment of a research clinic, he also corresponded with several medical men: Herman Kabat, first director of the Kaiser-Kabat Institute, O. Leonard Huddleston and Sidney H. Garfield, both later associated with Kaiser Foundation Institute, and Tracy J. Putnam, a professor of neurology.
    Kaiser was an active Episcopalian and corresponded with several church or religious leaders on diverse topics. Among these were J. C. F. Merrifield, and William H. Siegmund, both Episcopal lay leaders. There are some incidental letters from a variety of well-known persons: Richard Nixon, Herbert Hoover, Norman Vincent Peale, Gary Cooper, Bob Hope, George Romney, and Goodwin J. Knight, among others.
    The collection also contains Kaiser's published and unpublished speeches, in draft and manuscript form, as well as copies of the leaflets which the Kaiser Companies printed for private distribution. There is biographical material about him as well as other members of the family and miscellaneous family documents. The subject files are concerned with various civic interests of Kaiser's, particularly Oakland's Public Advisory Committee on Education (PACE).
    In addition, the collection contains interoffice memoranda, primarily from 1960, from various Kaiser employees concerning the activities of different Kaiser companies. Also included is correspondence and interoffice memoranda concerning the 1957 industrial preview and inauguration of a nuclear reactor, designed and built by the Henry J. Kaiser Company at Idaho Falls, Idaho.