Henry Crown

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Henry Crown
Born 1896
Ethnicity Jewish
Citizenship  United States
Known for founded the Material Service Corporation and the Henry Crown and Company
Spouse(s) Rebecca Kranz (deceased)
Gladys Kay
Children with Kranz:
--Robert Crown
--Lester Crown
--John J. Crown
Parents Ida Krinsky
Arie Krinsky

Henry Crown (1896 – August 14, 1990) was an American industrialist and philanthropist. Among other things, he founded the Material Service Corporation, which merged with General Dynamics in 1959. At the time of his death, he was a billionaire. Henry Crown and Company, of which he is the namesake, is an investment firm that owns or has interests in a variety of business assets [1].


Early years[edit]

Crown (birth name Henry Krinsky) was born in 1896 to Jewish immigrants from Lithuania. He was third of seven children of a sweatshop worker, Arie Krinsky, and his wife Ida. His father changed the family name to Crown while Henry was a boy.[1] Crown did not attend school past the eighth grade. In 1915, at the age of 19, he started a company with his older brother Sol selling steel. Sol later died of tuberculosis.

Material Service Corporation[edit]

In 1919, on borrowed capital of $10,000, Crown established (with his brother Irving) the Material Service Corporation (MSC). In its first year the company made a profit of $7,000 on sales of $218,000. MSC sold gravel, sand, lime, and coal to builders in the Chicago area.

Crown gained a controlling interest in General Dynamics in 1959, when he merged the company with MSC. By this time, MSC was a $100 million company.[2]


In October 1963, syndicated columnist Drew Pearson published his Washington Merry-Go-Round newspaper column titled "'Songbird' Was Murdered",[3][4] reporting that U.S. Attorney General Tom C. Clark had assigned twelve FBI agents to provide protection to informer James M. Ragen in 1946 while they interrogated him in Chicago. After the FBI fact-checked Ragen's statements, Tom Clark confirmed to Pearson that the facts learned from Ragen were true and the top echelon of the Chicago mob "led to very high places". The names of seemingly respected politicians and businessmen[5] revealed by Ragen to the FBI were words familiar to every Chicago household and some believed they had reformed, but Pearson wrote, "Yet they still controlled the mob." Pearson added that Tom C. Clark's Justice Department had no federal jurisdiction to prosecute the suspects Ragen named, and after completing their questioning of Ragen and verifying his claims, the FBI withdrew their protection of him.

In the book titled "The Drew Pearson Diaries", published five years after Pearson died in 1969, his stepson, Tyler Abell, compiled and edited information contained in Pearson's investigative files. Included in the book are the additional details Pearson said Tom C. Clark and J. Edgar Hoover had learned from Ragen:

"...it led to very high places. J. Edgar Hoover intimated the same thing. He said the people Ragen pointed to had now reformed. I learned later that it pointed to the Hilton hotel chain,[6] Henry Crown,[7] the big Jewish financier in Chicago [involved in Cook County real estate deals with Jacob Arvey, the local democratic political boss], and Walter Annenberg [son of the prewar wire service owner Moses Annenberg]."[8][9][10][11][12][13][14]

Tom C. Clark appointed Crown's son, John, as one of two of his 1956 Supreme Court session law clerks.[15] In December 1963, Chief Justice Earl Warren, acting as head of the newly formed Presidential Commission investigating the death of President Kennedy, suggested that Henry Crown's attorney, Albert E. Jenner, Jr., who also at that time employed Crown's son, John, at Jenner's Chicago law firm, be appointed as a senior assistant Warren Commission counsel. Warren gave his fellow commissioners the names of two men who approved of Jenner's appointment, Tom C. Clark and Dean Acheson.[16]

Henry Crown and his close friend Sam Nanini were reported in March 1977 to have had relationships with organized crime figures.[17][18]

As Attorney General, Tom Clark was accused of impropriety in the early parole of convicted Chicago crime boss, Louis Campagna, and three others.[19][20][21][22] Sam Nanini wrote a letter in 1947 to the Federal Bureau of Prisons, advocating parole for Campagna. [23][24]


According to his own claim, Crown had given away "nine figures" in his philanthropic pursuits by the time he turned 79. His beneficiaries included the University of Chicago, Brandeis, Stanford, Northwestern and the St. Lawrence University student investment fund.

Personal life[edit]

Crown was married twice. His first wife Rebecca (née Kranz) Crown, died in 1943.[25] His second wife was Gladys (née Kay) Crown.[25][26] Crown had three children: Robert Crown, Lester Crown (born 1925) and John J. Crown, a Cook County judge.[1]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Cook, Joan (August 16, 1990). "Henry Crown, Industrialist, Dies; Billionaire, 94, Rose From Poverty". New York Times. 
  2. ^ Alsop, Stewart (July 17, 1965). America's Big New Rich. The Saturday Evening Post. 
  3. ^ Drew Pearson (1963-10-26). "'Songbird' Was Murdered". The Palm Beach Post. 
  4. ^ http://dspace.wrlc.org/doc/bitstream/2041/50038/b18f07-1026zdisplay.pdf
  5. ^ "FBI - HSCA Subject File: Gus Alex". Maryferrell.org. Retrieved 2013-09-14. 
  6. ^ "FBI - HSCA Subject File: Sebastian John LaRocca". Maryferrell.org. Retrieved 2013-09-14. 
  7. ^ "FBI - HSCA Subject File: Gus Alex". Maryferrell.org. Retrieved 2013-09-14. 
  8. ^ Abell, Tyler (1974). Drew Pearson Diaries Volume I, 1949-1959. Holt, Rinehart and Winston. 
  9. ^ Scott, Peter Dale (1996). Deep Politics and the Death of JFK pg 155. University of California Press. 
  10. ^ Gentry, Curt (2001). J. Edgar Hoover: The Man and the Secrets. W. W. Norton & Company. p. 332. 
  11. ^ Summers, Anthony (1993). Official and confidential: the secret life of J. Edgar Hoover. G.P. Putnam's Sons. p. Page 227. 
  12. ^ http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&safe=off&tbs=bks%3A1&q=high+places+%22henry+crown%22+annenberg&btnG=Search&aq=f&aqi=&aql=&oq=&gs_rfai=.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  13. ^ Evica, George Michael (1978). And we are all mortal:. University of Hartford Press. p. Page 387. 
  14. ^ Item notes: nos. 51-90 -. Washington observer newsletter Issues 51-90. 1968. 
  15. ^ Chris Heidenrich (August 3, 1997). "Ex-farmer, judge Crown remembered as 'wise,...". Daily Herald. 
  16. ^ Gibson, Donald (2000). The Kennedy assassination cover-up Page 96. Kroshka Books Div. of Nova Science Publishers. 
  17. ^ Demaris, Ovid (1969). Captive city – Page 230. Lyle Stuart Inc. NY. 
  18. ^ Investigative Reporters and Editors aka IRE (1977-03-19). "Arizona Complex Screen Hid 30 Years of Dealings". The Milwaukee Journal Page 5. 
  19. ^ Roemer, William F. (1995). Accardo: the genuine godfather - Page 104. D.I. Fine NY. 
  20. ^ "FBI - HSCA Subject File: John Roselli". Maryferrell.org. Retrieved 2013-09-14. 
  21. ^ "FBI - HSCA Subject File: John Roselli". Maryferrell.org. Retrieved 2013-09-14. 
  22. ^ JAMES DOHERTY (April 11, 1947). "PAROLE PROBERS TO ASK QUIZ OF TEXAS LAWYER". The Chicago Tribune. 
  23. ^ Demaris, Ovid (1969). Captive city – Page 219. Lyle Stuart Inc. NY. 
  24. ^ Westbrook Pegler (June 8, 1958). "More To Sam Nanini Than You Read Page 9". The Milwaukee Journal Page 5. 
  25. ^ a b Chicago Tribune: "Gladys K. Crown, 82, Philanthropist And Exec" By Kenan Heise September 14, 1991
  26. ^ Aspen Institute: "Legacy of Henry Crown" retrieved August 26. 2013

External links[edit]