Henry J. Kaiser featured in Investor’s Business Daily

posted on September 21, 2016

Lincoln Cushing
Heritage writer



Henry J. Kaiser, second from left, is joined by Oregon Governor Charles Sprague, left, and President Franklin Roosevelt on a 1942 visit to the Kaiser Shipyards in Portland.

Investor’s Business Daily writer Scott Stoddard recently noted “Henry Ford built cars, William Boeing built airplanes, and Cornelius Vanderbilt built railroads. But Henry J. Kaiser built just about everything.”

Henry J. Kaiser (1882-1967) was a household name in the United States between the 1940s and the 1960s, but today few know much about him and what he accomplished.

Stoddard’s article “Industrialist Henry Kaiser Made Everything His Business” under the “Leaders & Success” section goes a long way toward elevating his stature as a significant American figure of the 20th century.

And more than that, much of what Kaiser accomplished sought to improve social conditions. At Grand Coulee Dam in 1938 he and Sidney Garfield, MD, offered employees an affordable and effective prepaid health plan. In 1942 he founded what would become Kaiser Permanente, which today is one of the nation’s largest integrated health plans.

The noted California historian Kevin Starr, quoted in the article, once told an audience at the Commonwealth Club that “Kaiser the industrialist was powerful enough, but the Kaiser Plan, with Sidney Garfield… it’s the great big social idea to come out of the war.”

Several biographies on Henry J. Kaiser help to tell his story, as well as regular articles in this History of Total Health blog that cover his role in such diverse topics as housing, support for merchant mariners, and employment discrimination. The blog also looks into his more idiosyncratic pursuits, which included race cars, the iconic Jeep, geodesic domes, and catamarans.


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The Day 2,270 Rosies Rocked Richmond

posted on September 12, 2016

Lincoln Cushing
Heritage writer



Heritage Resources archivist selfie with 2,269 other Rosies

On August 14, 2016, 2,270 people (yes, men were allowed!) all dressed as the iconic “Rosie the Riveter” gathered in the giant Ford Assembly Building craneway in Richmond, Calif., to beat the current Guinness World Record for such an event. More than a record-breaking gimmick, it was a testament to the impact of the World War II Home Front, and specifically honored the women who participated in the war effort.

The record had been previously held by 2,096 women at the site of the World War II Willow Run bomber plant in Michigan. During the war the workers at that Ford-owned factory turned out B-24 Liberator bombers; in 1945, the upstart automobile manufacturer Kaiser-Frazer moved in and by June 1946 began producing cars for the huge postwar market.

IMG_2932-medDuring World War II the Ford plant in Richmond was surrounded by four Kaiser shipyards, which together produced 747 ships to help win the war. The social programs that accompanied the war effort – such as efforts to integrate housing, provision of quality child care, acceptance of women in the industrial workforce, opportunities for women and people of color in trade unions, and the Kaiser health plan – were precursors of many subsequent social justice efforts, including the civil rights movement and second wave feminism.

The Rosie the Riveter WWII Home Front National Historical Park in Richmond is the only National Park to cover this important period in national (and California) history. It’s well worth a visit – on most Fridays, you can visit with these real Home Front workers from World War II. Please call the Visitor Education Center for schedule, (510) 232-5050.

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We Can Do It! photo stations, Rosie Rally at Richmond shipyards, 2016-08-13

We Can Do It! photo stations


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World War II Kaiser ships named for labor leaders

posted on August 24, 2016

Lincoln Cushing
Heritage writer


Fore 'n' Aft, 1942-09-10, RMH

Labor day launchings in Richmond, Calif., Fore ‘n’ Aft, 9/10/1942.

Naming a ship after someone is a high honor. The United States Navy recently announced plans to name the fleet oiler T-AO-206 after the gay rights activist, San Francisco politician, and Navy veteran Harvey Milk. Several ships in this class commemorate social justice heroes and heroines, including the T-AO 187 USNS Henry J. Kaiser.

During World War II, when production was maximized and the workforce was essential to victory, labor and management made great efforts to be as cooperative as possible. On January 12, 1942, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt reinstated former President Woodrow Wilson’s National War Labor Board to anticipate and resolve labor-management conflict.

Labor Day ship launchings often feted the local labor community, but trade unionism was further elevated during the war by naming Liberty ships after labor leaders.

Announcement of launching of the SS Furuseth, Fore 'n' Aft, 1942-09-17, RMH

Launching of the SS Andrew Furuseth, Fore ‘n’ Aft, 9/17/1942.

Five Liberty ships named after labor leaders were launched on Labor Day – September 7 – 1942, and three of them were built in Kaiser shipyards. A sixth ship (the SS Samuel Gompers) was launched on June 28, 1944. Seven additional ships named for Jewish American labor leaders were launched between January 21, 1944, and October 13, 1944.

Labor took the lead in this campaign. In July, 1942, the Sailors’ Union of the Pacific petitioned the United States Maritime Commission and the War Shipping Administration for a Liberty ship to be named in honor of Andrew Furuseth, the longtime president of their union.

The plea was reported in the Oakland Tribune, July 14, 1942, in an article titled “Mariners ask ship to be named for union leader”:

Members of the West Coast Local No. 90 of the National Organization of Masters, Mates, and Pilots of America today petitioned the United States Maritime Commission to name one of the new Liberty ships after Andrew Furuseth, one of the founders of the Sailors Union of the Pacific.

In a resolution forwarded by Captain C.F. May, president, the Commission was asked to select one of the ships to be launched on Labor Day, September 7. Captain May told the commission that, if the committee selects a vessel to be named Furuseth, it “will not only be honoring an outstanding labor leader and citizen, but also recognizing the American marine seaman of today for his bravery and sacrifices which he is making to win the war.”

Logo (scan from production idea award certificate), Labor-Management Committee, War Production Drive, 1944

Logo, Labor-Management Committee, War Production Drive, 1944

On September 7, 1942, the United States Maritime Commission arranged to have five ships launched that were named for labor leaders. The launch ceremonies, held at four different shipyards around the country, were to be linked by a coast-to-coast broadcast and feature speeches by John P. Frey, an executive of the American Federation of Labor, and John W. Green, president of the Congress of Industrial Organizations. The two organizations would merge in 1955, and the AFL-CIO remains the largest federation of unions in the United States.

An Associated Press account described the Labor Day launching event in Baltimore:

With thousands of workers looking on, three Liberty ships slid down the ways at the Bethlehem-Fairfield shipyards Monday as the climax to a Labor Day celebration attended by political notables and ranking labor leaders. For the rest, it was just another working day for Bethlehem-Fairfield workers as they followed the lead of other defense industries and stayed at their jobs. Two of the new vessels were christened in honor of outstanding labor leaders and one of them was constructed in the record-breaking time of 39 days.

Yard General Manager J. M. Willis keynoted the ceremonies when he said “In all the history of America never has there been a Labor Day as significant as this one.”

Labor men everywhere, Willis continued, “have turned their parades into the shipyards and other defense industries in order, that not one hour of their productive effort be lost.” John Green, national president of the Industrial Union of Marine and Shipbuilding Workers of America, spoke of the steady growth of unionism. “By persistent work and unrelenting efforts the workers have achieved recognition. Our organizations are accepted as a necessary part of free American society. Our job now is to demonstrate that we are worthy to inherit the Promised Land made possible by the struggles of our pioneers,” Green said.


BW 1945-11-09

“Labor to be honored at Friday’s Launching,” The Bos’n’s Whistle, Oregon, 9/9/1945.

Even as the war wound down, labor was honored. A November 9, 1945 article titled “Labor to be Honored at Friday’s Launchings” informed readers that “Labor of the entire area will be feted for the part it has played in the Portland-Vancouver Kaiser company shipyards during the war in a huge ‘All Labor’ launching of the Mount Rogers at Vancouver … the entire program will be arranged by the Portland-Vancouver Metal Trades Council.”

Here are details of those five labor leader ships:


Norwegian-flagged Essi, formerly the SS Andrew Furuseth, circa 1960s.

SS Andrew Furuseth. Built at Kaiser Richmond shipyard #1; sold to Norwegian interests as Essi, 1947. Scrapped in Japan, 1967.
Norway-born Furuseth (1854-1938) was a merchant seaman and American labor leader. He helped build two influential maritime unions: the Sailors’ Union of the Pacific and the International Seamen’s Union. Furuseth served as the executive of both for decades.

SS Peter J. McGuire. Built at Kaiser Richmond shipyard #2; scrapped 1968.
McGuire (1852-1906) co-founded the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America in 1881 and was one of the early leading figures of the American Federation of Labor. He is credited with first proposing the idea of Labor Day as a national holiday in 1882.

SS James Duncan. Built at Kaiser Oregon Shipbuilding (St. Johns, Ore.); scrapped 1962.
Duncan was a Scottish-American union leader and president of the Granite Cutters’ International Association from 1885 until his death in 1928. He was an influential member of the American labor movement and helped found the American Federation of Labor.

SS John W. Brown. Built at Bethlehem-Fairfield Shipyard, Baltimore, Maryland.
John W. Brown (1867-1941) was a Canadian-born American labor union leader and executive of the Industrial Union of Marine and Shipbuilding Workers of America. This Liberty ship is one of two still operational (the other being the SS Jeremiah O’Brien, berthed in San Francisco) and one of three preserved as museum ships. The John W. Brown is berthed in Baltimore.

SS John Mitchell. Built at Bethlehem-Fairfield Shipyard; scrapped 1967.
Mitchell was a United States labor leader and president of the United Mine Workers of America from 1898 to 1908.

A sixth labor ship, launched June 28, 1944, was the SS Samuel Gompers, built at California Shipbuilding Corporation (Calship) in Sausalito. Gompers was the first and longest-serving president of the American Federation of Labor. She replaced a cargo steamship with the same name which had been torpedoed and sunk by a Japanese submarine in the South Pacific on January 30th, 1943.

Seven other Liberty ships launched in 1944 were named for Jewish American labor leaders.

January 21: The SS Benjamin Schlesinger was launched from the Bethlehem-Fairfield Shipyards. This was followed by the January 22 launching of the SS Morris Hilquit. Both were honored for their wartime contribution through the International Ladies Garment Workers Union.

The SS Morris Sigman, launched from Baltimore on February 4, honored the former president of the ILGWU, followed by the SS Meyer London, another ILGWU leader.

The SS B. Charney Vladek was launched from the New England Shipbuilding Company in South Portland, Maine, on July 7. She was named for Baruch Charney (1886-1938; he added “Vladek” as a nom de guerre surname in Tsarist Russia). Vladek emigrated to America in 1908, and was a Jewish labor leader and manager of the Jewish Daily Forward.

The SS Abraham Rosenberg was launched from the New England Shipbuilding Company in early October, named for the former ILGWU president. And on October 13 the SS Morris C. Feinstone, named for the the late general secretary of the United Hebrew Trades, was launched at the St. John’s shipyards in Florida. AFL President William Green paid tribute to Mr. Feinstone as “a devoted member of organized labor.”

Also see:Liberty and Victory Ships named for African Americans” and”Henry Kaiser and merchant sailors union: the curious case of the SS Pho Pho” about the SS Harry Lundeberg, 1958


Photograph of the Essi courtesy Den Norske Libertyflaten, (The American Liberty Fleet and other U.S.-Built Merchant Ships) Vormedal Forlag, Norway, 2015. Did you know that Norwegian for “scrapping” is “opphugging”?

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Kaiser Permanente Nutrition in the Past, Present and Future

posted on August 18, 2016

Caitlin Dong, guest writer 


Frances E. Weir [KFSN nusrsing student?], Cooking Laboratory, Kaiser Vallejo Rehabilitation Clinic, 1947-11

Kaiser Foundation School of Nursing student Frances E. Weir in the Cooking Laboratory, Kaiser Vallejo Rehabilitation Clinic, 1947

Imagine a health care system that emphasizes prevention, instead of focusing only on treating diseases. Oh wait, no need to imagine – Kaiser Permanente already exists.

Dr. Sidney Garfield, physician founder of Kaiser Permanente, sought to create a new economy of health where providers and members turned their attention toward preventative care. Early in its history, Kaiser Permanente expressed to members and patients the importance of balanced diets and how what we consume affects our health.

In a 1965 edition of Planning for Health, a quarterly newsletter available to Kaiser Foundation Health Plan members, an article titled “The Importance of Diet” takes a look at “proper diet and related factors contributing to longer, more healthful living.” The writer asks if it is possible to prevent heart attacks by proper dieting and then answers this question, noting that eating healthier foods can minimize cardiovascular diseases.

Today, Kaiser Permanente physicians, dietitians and others in the organization remain focused on the link between diet and health. Kaiser Permanente Dietitian Carole Bartolotto notes, “So many diseases and conditions we develop are directly related to what we eat.”

Planning for Health newsletter 1965-Spring

Detail from illustrated chart of “Desirable Weights for Men” (and women), Planning for Health, 1965

Bartolotto works as a senior consultant in Southern California on a variety of projects relating to diet and heart disease. She is responsible for nutrition publications and is chair of the committee that reviews those publications. Their goal is to ensure that whatever is published is up to date and matches the most current evidence available.

Kaiser Permanente makes every effort to ensure that members can easily access accurate and helpful information to guide their nutrition and diet choices. Research articles, such as this one that explores whether consuming sugar and artificial sweeteners changes taste preferences, are part of this effort.

And, if you’re looking for healthy food recipes, Kaiser Permanente’s Food for Health blog is a great place to start!

Knowing the advantages of preventative care, let’s make healthy food choices. Our future selves will thank us.


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