Edgar F. Kaiser
compiled by Columbian staff in 1989
Edgar F. Kaiser, son of famed industrialist Henry J. Kaiser and a business giant in his own right, was a household name in Vancouver during World War II.
Kaiser was a resident of Vancouver during those war years and personally oversaw the building of more than 140 ships here between 1942 and 1946. He also helped found the Kaiser Permanente plan that was to become the largest private prepaid health program in the country.
Kaiser was born July 29, 1908, in Spokane. He majored in economics at the University of California, then joined his father as superintendent of a pipeline project in Kansas. They then went on to help construct Hoover, Bonneville and Grand Coulee dams.
The Kaisers got into the shipbuilding business in 1940, sponsoring a consortium of six companies to open a yard at Richmond, Calif. When the United States entered the war on Dec. 7, 1941, the Kaisers moved quickly to open additional shipyards at Vancouver and at Swan Island.
While at Vancouver, Edgar Kaiser gained a reputation as a high-balling boss who drove his crews to meet and beat schedules. As a result, the 38,000 men and women employed at the Vancouver shipyards turned out 141 vessels of different types.
During their dam construction days, Henry J. and Edgar Kaiser organized a new style of prepaid medical care for their employees. At Vancouver, this concept was translated into the Kaiser Permanente hospital. It is estimated that a quarter of Vancouver's population now subscribes to the Kaiser plan.
The Kaisers also built empires in aluminum, chemicals, cement and steel. There also were the Kaiser automobiles, popular just after World War II. The first prototype of the Kaiser car was built at the Vancouver shipyards as the war ended.
After Henry J. died in 1967, Edgar became chairman of the board of Kaiser Industries. He died Dec. 13, 1981, at the age of 73.