In late 2015 C-SPAN’s national Cities Tour series traveled to Oakland, Calif., and one segment highlighted Kaiser Permanente’s early days when it built the first Permanente Foundation hospital in Oakland and provided health care to thousands of workers at the Kaiser Shipyards in Richmond.
Kaiser Permanente historian and archivist Lincoln Cushing explains how Henry J. Kaiser’s Oakland-based shipbuilding and steel industries served as a model for practical and effective social benefits – such as employment nondiscrimination, support for organized labor, child care and affordable health care. Kaiser Permanente’s legacies of medical innovation and socially committed practices have continued to this day.
The Oakland episode aired Sunday, January 3.
The segment can be seen on this direct link to C-SPAN’s web page.
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, Heritage writer
It’s December. Drought-weary Californians are looking skyward in hopes that this year we’ll get rain, and more importantly, snow in the Sierra Nevada mountain range.
55 years ago, Kaiser Industries played a role in a major Sierra snow event – the 1960 Eighth Winter Olympics at Squaw Valley, California. The official poster for that Olympics was designed by Jack Galliano, of Kaiser Graphic Arts.
Steve Gilford, a Kaiser Permanente Heritage Resources colleague, interviewed Galliano in 2004 and wrote this:
Jack Galliano was Art Director of Kaiser Graphic Arts with an office in the Kaiser headquarters in Oakland, Calif. First Henry and then Edgar Kaiser had relied both on his graphic skills and on his taste to carry out assignments as varied as a “sky’s the limit” 80th birthday party for Henry Kaiser to producing annual reports for the Kaiser companies. In 1967, he designed the first Kaiser Health Plan Annual report. Because his work seemed to be everywhere in the Kaiser organization, he’d become known as “The Palace Artist.”
Galliano’s most famous work though was not done for a Kaiser company. Kaiser Graphic Arts was a division within the Kaiser companies and operating as a business, recharging for work done within the Kaiser family of organizations and also competing very successfully for outside business. One such competition was for the design of the 1960 Squaw Valley Winter Olympics poster, a prestigious assignment that was wanted by graphic designers everywhere. Galliano entered and won. His Olympic poster was produced in five languages and distributed around the world.
The poster was printed at Kaiser Graphic Arts’ union shop nearby in Oakland at 865 Isabella Street.
The selection of Squaw Valley was controversial. When resort owners Wayne Poulsen and Alexander Cushing (no relation) bid on the Games, it was a long shot. The resort had only one chairlift, two rope tows, and lodging for 50. To pay for the massive expansion necessary to properly host the Games, the federal government provided about a quarter of the $80 million required.
There was another Kaiser connection. The official car of the 1960 Winter Olympics was the Renault Dauphine, a rear engine economy car (you know it’s an economy car when the advertising boasts of features such as a heater and defroster), and 75 of them were used to shuttle athletes around. (This little beast was not the same as Kaiser’s 1950 “Henry J,” also a practical and affordable car.)
The year before, Kaiser Motors’ joint venture with Industrias Kaiser Argentina S.A. contracted with Renault to produce the small car and badge it the IKA Dauphine. The Dauphine was also produced in Brazil under license by Willys-Overland (another Kaiser Motors company at the time) between 1959 and 1968.
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, Heritage writer
Early this year I wrote a blog post about the magnificent whirley cranes of the Kaiser shipyards. Kaiser had first used whirleys while building Grand Coulee Dam, and when he began making cargo ships during World War II he brought them down to his Richmond, Calif. and Portland, Ore., area yards. I ended with a description of a stoic whirley installed at Kaiser Richmond shipyard number 3 as part of the Rosie the Riveter National Park. I called it “the last crane.”
I was wrong.
This summer the Oregon Historical Society in Portland mounted an incredible exhibition on World War II, and I was invited to give a presentation about Henry J. Kaiser’s Home Front social benefit legacies. While visiting there I had a chance to tour the Zidell shipyard on the bank of the Willamette River (adjacent to the Oregon Health Sciences University). If good forces align this strip will one day be the site of an outdoor maritime display, combining biking and walking recreation with the rich and diverse history of the region – including WWII Kaiser shipbuilding.Just as I was leaving I saw something that stopped me in my tracks. Is that a…whirley crane?
Yes, it was. Not just one whirley crane – two whirley cranes, fully functioning and going about their business of building barges, which is what Zidell does so well. I couldn’t have been more surprised if a dinosaur crawled out of the Willamette and bit me.
More research remains to be done about the lineage of these beasts. Larry Richards, Zidell’s unofficial archivist and historian, tells me that these machines were bought at auction in 1981 from the Port of Long Beach in Southern California.But these weren’t Zidell’s first whirleys. Larry Richards explains:
When Zidell entered the ship dismantling business in 1946, the company at first rented a portion of the old Commercial Ironworks shipyard on the Willamette River, at the west end of the Ross Island Bridge. That yard had a long dock on the river bank, and there were two whirleys on that dock. As that business grew for Zidell, the company rented greater portions of the shipyard and eventually purchased it from the Union Pacific Railroad in the 1950s.
Over the years, other cranes were purchased and installed on the dock and even on converted hulls of Liberty ships, creating vessels which were known as “Zidell Delights”. Those vessels were used in various construction and loading venues in the Pacific Northwest. In the 1960s we built five of these vessels, each of which used a Liberty ship hull as its base with the dimensions of 400 x 58 x 25 feet.
History lives on in the Zidell yards.
As of March 2017 a webcam monitors an osprey nest at the top of a whirley crane in the WWII Richmond shipyard!
Thank you, Golden Gate Audubon Society.
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, Heritage writer
Unquestionably, the most beautiful document in the Kaiser Permanente heritage archives is a handmade book printed in November 1945, Twenty-Six Addresses Delivered During the War Years by Henry J. Kaiser: September Thirteenth, Nineteen Hundred and Forty-Two to July Nineteenth, Nineteen Hundred and Forty Five.
These speeches covered a wide range of subjects, including “Management Looks at the Post War World: An Address before the Forty-Seventh Annual Congress of American Industry, New York City, December 4, 1942,” “Launching the First Aircraft Carrier at Vancouver, Washington, April 5, 1943,” “Building the Future: An Address before the Conference of the National Committee on Housing, Chicago, Illinois, March 9, 1944,” and a speech before the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union at Times Hall, New York City, January 26, 1945.
But impressive though the speeches were, the book itself is a remarkable and beautiful object.
t was printed by Edwin and Robert Grabhorn from type designed by the American typographer Frederic W. Goudy (1865–1947) who created 116 typefaces and published 59 books and whose typefaces have remained a standard to this day. The type was hand set by Jane Grabhorn. The luscious deckle-edged (untrimmed) paper was made by Canson et Montgolfier in France.
The Grabhorn brothers came to San Francisco from the Midwest in 1919 and immediately established themselves as creative and talented fine book printers. California-born Jane Bissell married Robert Grabhorn in 1923, and in 1938 she and William Mo Roth started the Colt Press, an independent commercial publishing venture.
Grabhorn Press closed in 1965 and re-emerged in 1974 as the Arion Press under the direction of Andrew Hoyem. It remains one of San Francisco’s preeminent craft presses.
Upon opening the book one is struck by ornate, golden drop capital letters drawn by painter, printmaker, muralist, and illustrator Harold Mallette Dean (1907–1975). During the Great Depression Dean worked on the Works Progress Administration’s Mural Project and was one of 26 artists selected to paint murals at San Francisco’s Coit Tower. In 1935 he began a 15-year career illustrating books for Grabhorn Press.
he 2-inch square drop caps illustrating each speech are sublime. A single red letter is surrounded by a gold foil stamped image, all relating to some subject of the speech.
An “I” is an I-beam with geometric drawings and a small helicopter. Another “I,” for a speech on the 10th anniversary of American-Soviet diplomatic relations, shows the American eagle paired with a Soviet Union hammer and sickle over the Kremlin.
“M” shows the distinctive profile of a Victory ship. An “O” features a mass of workers engaged in the various defense industry trades. Interestingly, another “O” shows the distinctive bow of a C2-F class freighter – none of which were ever built in Kaiser shipyards.
One “T” has billowing smokestacks of the Fontana steel mill; another a crouched miner with a headlamp.
illustrates a speech given at the launching of the S.S. Berry Victory at the Kaiser Richmond shipyards on May 19, 1945. The image is of two Czechoslovakian citizens in traditional dress; tucked into the upper corner a heraldic lion from the Czechoslovakian coat of arms gently drops its paw on the letter’s top edge. The Berry Victory was sponsored by the wife of Vladimir Hurban, a member of the CzechoSlovak National Council, which served as their government in exile.
Through this book, Industry met Art and clasped hands – an appropriate testament to Henry J. Kaiser’s contributions to victory in World War II.
To come: Excerpts from these speeches.
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