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Henry Crown (June 13, 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] From 1951 to 1961, he was the owner of the Empire State Building.[2]

Henry Crown
Henry Krinsky

(1896-06-13)June 13, 1896
DiedAugust 14, 1990(1990-08-14) (aged 94)
Known forFounded the Material Service Corporation in 1919 and the Henry Crown and Company in 1959
Rebecca Kranz
(m. 1920; her death 1943)

Gladys Kay
(m. 1946; his death 1990)
Childrenwith Kranz:
  • Robert Crown (1921–1969)
  • Lester Crown (b. 1925)
  • John J. Crown (1929–1997)
Parent(s)Ida Krinsky (1871–1956) and Arie Krinsky (1861–1937)



Early YearsEdit

Crown (birth name Henry Krinsky) was born in 1896 to Jewish immigrants from Lithuania.[3][4] 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.[5] 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 CorporationEdit

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.[6]


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. The Henry Crown Symphony Hall in Jerusalem is named after him.

Personal lifeEdit

Crown was married twice. His first wife Rebecca (née Kranz) Crown, died in 1943.[7] His second wife was Gladys (née Kay) Crown.[7][8] Crown had three children: Robert Crown (1921–1969), Lester Crown (born June 7, 1925) and John J. Crown (1929–1997), a Cook County judge.[5]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on February 22, 2015. Retrieved May 15, 2016.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  2. ^ Los Angeles Times (Aug 16, 1990). "Henry Crown; Once Owner of Empire State Building".
  4. ^ Charles D. Ellis (2001). "Wall Street People: True Stories of Today's Masters and Moguls". p. 241. ISBN 9780471238096.
  5. ^ a b Cook, Joan (August 16, 1990). "Henry Crown, Industrialist, Dies; Billionaire, 94, Rose From Poverty". New York Times.
  6. ^ Alsop, Stewart (July 17, 1965). America's Big New Rich. The Saturday Evening Post.
  7. ^ a b Chicago Tribune: "Gladys K. Crown, 82, Philanthropist And Exec" By Kenan Heise September 14, 1991
  8. ^ Aspen Institute: "Legacy of Henry Crown" retrieved August 26. 2013

External linksEdit