Kaiser dug for cement and hit aluminum foil
By Donna Austin
As most people know, Henry J Kaiser founded a cement plant in Cupertino in 1939. He also built dams, boats, roads and the Kaiser Permanente medical system, named after the Permanente Creek that runs through our region. What most do not know is that alongside his cement plant, he also built the Kaiser Aluminum factory here in 1954. Over the decades, Kaiser become involved in every aspect of the aluminum industry, including mining and refining the production of aluminum.
Henry J. Kaiser was born on May 9th, 1882 at Sprout Brook, Montgomery County, New York. He died at age 85 in Honolulu. He moved west in 1906, and proved to his future father-in-law that he could make more than $125 a month to support his bride.
In 1914 he founded a road-paving company, which he expanded in 1927 after receiving a $20 million contract to build roads in Cuba. Kaiser’s firm was one of the prime contractors in building Hoover Dam, the Bonneville and Grand Coulee Dams. Kaiser realized that whoever built Shasta Dam would need 6 million barrels of cement and huge amounts of sand and gravel. He searched for a property containing limestone, and the deposit he found was along the lovely Rio Permanente Stream, in our Cupertino area. In 1939 he started development of the Kaiser cement plant here.
In early 1946, the government notified 300 potential buyers that it would be selling two wartime aluminum facilities, but only the Kaiser group made a bid. On April First, Kaiser began operation of his aluminum facility, and his critics noting the date thought it was an omen. How wrong they were! Kaiser Foil became a household word, it was produced here in Cupertino and provided hundreds of jobs to our valley.
In the first picture you see Kaiser Permanente cement building completed. (1940)
In the second picture you see Rosie the riveter with the guys in 1940 at the Kaiser cement plant. (1940)
In the third picture you see a plant supervisor watching the roles of aluminum as it is coming off the spools. (1954)