Henry Plimpton Kendall (1878–1959), founder of the Kendall Company, was a prominent industrialist and an influential shaper of textile industry policy in the first half of the twentieth century. He was also a pioneer in the field of Scientific Management and in worker welfare and collaborative labor relations. A respected advisor, he volunteered his services to educational institutions, the state of Massachusetts, and the federal government, where he served President Franklin D. Roosevelt as chair of the Business Advisory Council. A generous philanthropist, he supported multiple educational, religious and cultural institutions, work that was carried on after his death by the Henry P. Kendall Foundation. A man of many interests, he was an accomplished outdoorsman and sailor, as well as a collector and preserver of historical and cultural materials.
Henry P. Kendall was born and grew up in Walpole, Massachusetts, the son of the Rev. Henry Lucien Kendall, a Congregational minister who died in his early 30s, and Clara Idella Plimpton Kendall, a member of the distinguished Plimpton family of Walpole. He often went by his nickname, Harry, in both personal and professional circles. In 1899 he graduated from Amherst College, where he distinguished himself in both academics and athletics and was captain of the football team.
After college, he managed the Plimpton Press, a family-owned printing company in Norwood, Massachusetts, where he made multiple improvements, and then took over a small textile mill in Walpole. From this start he grew the Kendall Company, a major international enterprise.
He married Evelyn Louise Way of Canada in 1926. The couple had three children, Henry, John and Helen; they resided for most of their married life on Moose Hill Farm in Sharon, MA, with a summer home in Marion, MA and a second home in Camden, SC, where major Kendall mills were located.
A leader in industry and a public servant, he was also throughout his life a lover of nature, an enthusiastic and skilled outdoorsman and sailor. He raised prize cattle on Moose Hill Farm, collected historical documents and artifacts, and founded a museum. Civic-minded and philanthropic, he served on volunteer boards and gave generously to a number of causes.
Beginning with a small, failing textile mill owned by the Plimpton family, the Lewis Batting Company in Walpole, he built the Kendall Company into a large national textile manufacturer with numerous plants, primarily in New England, the South and Chicago. The Kendall Company produced Curity medical and health textiles and Bike elastic webbing, along with a variety of other domestic and industrial textile-based products.
A disciple of the business theories of Frederick Taylor, Kendall was a pioneer in the field of Scientific Management, and incorporated its principles into the design and functioning of his plants.
An influential figure in the US textile industry by 1920, Kendall was an advocate for reduced hours, better pay and improved working conditions for textile workers, and for cooperative labor relations. He made extensive improvements to housing, public services, and community institutions in the towns where many of his plants were located. He also worked for policy coordination within the textile industry and between industry and government.
In the 1930s, Kendall chaired the federal Business Advisory Council, a volunteer position serving the administration of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and was an advisor to Secretary of Commerce Roper and the President.
He remained actively involved in the Kendall Company until shortly before his death in 1959. The company eventually merged into the Colgate Palmolive Company in 1972, although the Curity and Kendall brand names remain in use.
Kendall was a collector of the history and artifacts of the American whaling industry, and in 1956 he established the Kendall Whaling Museum in Sharon, an internationally recognized small museum whose collections became part of the New Bedford Whaling Museum in 2001. He also amassed a collection of maps, documents and artworks dealing with South Carolina history, which were later given to the University of South Carolina.
Contents of the Henry P. Kendall Archive
Writings: An extensive collection of articles, speeches, and book chapters by Henry P. Kendall, spanning the years 1911–1951; some in manuscript and some in printed form in various publications. Most focus on issues of business management or industrial policy.
Scrapbooks: The contents of scrapbooks maintained by Henry P. Kendall from 1918 until 1959, containing both personal and professional materials, including news coverage of his activities.
Correspondence: A limited selection of personal correspondence as early as 1894, and professional correspondence including letters of Franklin D. Roosevelt, John Nance Garner, and Secretaries of Commerce Daniel Roper and Harry Hopkins.
Biographical Materials: Research, reports, interview tapes and transcripts assembled by History Associates for the Henry P. Kendall Oral History Project in 1987, including interviews with business colleagues. Draft of unpublished biography “No Little Plan: the Life of Henry P. Kendall” by George L. Moore. Obituaries, biographical sketches, reminiscences and tributes.
Certificates and Awards: Diplomas, honorary degrees, appointments to offices and committees, certificates of achievement and appreciation.
Photographs: Candid and formal photographs of Henry P. Kendall from childhood through his later years, some with family members, friends and business associates. Photographs of others, including Franklin D. Roosevelt, with inscriptions to him. Film of British Columbia hunting expedition, 1937, in which he took part.
Memorabilia: Books; event invitations and programs; yacht logs, yachting trophies, athletic medals; records of Maine fishing camp; hunting rifle; tools; information on collections.