Henry Salvatori

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Henry Salvatori
Henry Salvatori headshot.png
Latest company Grant Oil Tool
BSc Electrical Engineering
MSc Physics
BSc university University of Pennsylvania
MSc university Columbia

Henry Salvatori (March 28, 1901 – July 7, 1997) was an American geophysicist, businessman, philanthropist, and political activist. Salvatori founded Western Geophysical in 1933 and, after selling the company in 1960, pursued a second career as a philanthropist and conservative political activist. He was a long-time financial supporter of the Heritage Foundation and the Claremont Institute, two conservative think tanks.

Biography 1983 [1]

In 1958 the president of the then largest geophysical contracting company in terms of total business volume wrote: "During these recessionary periods competition becomes more fierce and intense and, like the surging ocean tide, periodically sweeps away the less efficient elements of our economy. No company can shelter itself from this competitive tide. Safety can be obtained only in becoming more and more efficient. As a result, our overall production system is constantly refined and improved, and this in turn gives rise to an ever-increasing standard of living for all."

The growth of Western Geophysical was not stunted by that economic slump. In fact, this year it celebrates a 50th anniversary, its geophysical world leadership status intact. The founder of the company and author of those recurrently timely lines, Henry Salvatori, ceded the helm at Western in 1968, but didn't relent in his crusade for "... the preservation of our constitutional order and our individual freedom."

From 9:00 a.m. 'til 4:30 p.m. Salvatori looks after his investments from his office at Avenue of the Stars in Los Angeles. But well above need or desire for further financial gain, he devotes two-thirds of his time to community and government affairs. His efficacy in raising funds and support for conservative candidates has earned him clout in pro-laissez faire circles, albeit some censure among political liberals. (At the Salvatoris' exquisite Bel Air home, autographed pictures of US presidents casually mingle with those of their son Henry and daughter Laurie, plus performing celebrities and socialite friends. In the forefront, however, are snapshots of their seven-year-old grandson, Ford.)

Salvatori's partiality for entrepreneurial grit in affairs of state is consistent with his personal modus operandi. When during a controversial Los Angeles mayoral campaign he was accused of racial bias - which several of his patronage belie - Salvatori retorted: "I'm a member of a minority myself," referring to his Italian immigrant descent. A newspaper satirized: "He had a point. After all, how many multi-millionaires are there?" And both missed the gist that what set him in the select "minority" sphere was his ability to progress from one to another unassisted, strictly through hard work and initiative.

Early years and education

His future talents as a scientist and industrialist could hardly be foretold when Henry was attending a rural school in New Jersey. "Eight grades shared one room," he recalls. "But I'm glad my father decided we should live in the country. I had all the time in the world to wander around and explore the varied natural surroundings. In some indefinable way those early days on the farm served to shape my character, basic nature and even my philosophical outlook."

His father commuted by train daily to Philadelphia where he owned a wholesale grocery business; he chose to live on a farm primarily so his wife, who spoke only Italian, could adjust to the new English-speaking environment in a leisurely way. Later, after a short move to West Virginia, the Salvatoris settled in Philadelphia where Henry graduated from high school in 1919.

In the fall of that year he entered the School of Electrical Engineering at the University of Pennsylvania. Perhaps even then he was forming strong opinions about education, summed up in the March 1958 issue of his company's magazine, Western Profile, where on the President's Page he wrote: "... School teachers must again concentrate on the teaching of the three Rs and a sound curriculum and not be primarily concerned with 'social adjustment' and other progressive frills."

Now, 25 years later, he laments: "Not only has high school education not improved, but it has gotten worse because of the ongoing trend of letting the child do his own thing. Young people have to be taught ethical and patriotic values, discipline and civic responsibility. There isn't enough emphasis on creating good citizens, and if we don't do that, all the education in e world won't help. A lax high school system has a very deleterious effect on the type of students we get in colleges."

Salvatori's concern for higher education goes beyond exhortive statements. The "book on donations" - as he calls it - where the record of his financial contributions is kept, is 8-1/2" x 11" and over an inch thick. Many pages are headed with the names of educational institutions - the University of Southern California, for instance, and figures adding up to a seven-digit total which went toward the construction of the Henry Salvatori Computer Science Building, and the Grace Ford Salvatori Letters, Arts and Sciences Building. Also, Claremont McKenna College received a million-dollar endowment for the establishment of the Henry Salvatori Center for the Study of Freedom, and the University of Pennsylvania was granted $1 million for the Henry Salvatori Chair in Cognitive and Computer Science. When Stanford University first established its Department of Geophysics in 1954 Salvatori donated $60,000 for the construction of the Henry Salvatori Laboratory of Geophysics. He has also given $100,000 to the SEG Education Foundation.

There is also the gift to the Marlborough School for Girls - a modern library bearing the Salvatoris' daughter's name. Howard University, The Lincoln Institute for Research and Education (both black), Pepperdine University, CalTech, Eureka College, the US Army Scholarship Fund, the Heritage Foundation and many others, enjoy Salvatori support. He also aids scholarly journals, such as The Intercollegiate Review, Modern Age, and Educational Reviewer.

But academia is not the sole beneficiary of Salvatori's philanthropy. Hospitals, children's clubs, opinion publications (he is a founding stockholder of National Review and a close friend of William F. Buckley, Jr.), civic groups, the arts, are all amply represented.

Early Career

Back in the 1920s, however, the man who can now afford what Oliver Goldsmith termed, "the luxury of doing good," worked his way through college. At the University of Pennsylvania, that mint of geophysical talents - Drs. William Haseman, Benjamin Weatherby, Charles Bazzoni, Engelhardt Eckhardt, John Karcher, Alexander Wolf - Salvatori obtained his BS degree in electrical engineering in 1923.

A job at the Bell Telephone Laboratories, with a continuing education program for young engineers, allowed him to attend school three times a week. By 1926 he had earned an MS in physics from Columbia. Salvatori's last day there was an important crossroads.

He recalls: "I was leaving the physics building with a friend for the last time. Well on our way, I suggested we go back to take a look at the bulletin board. I don't know why, because I was very happy at Bell, an impressive operation with some 3,000 scientists and engineers. Anyway, there was a little notice which read: Wanted. Men with graduate work in physics to do research work in Oklahoma - if interested see Prof. Wells. That was the wild west, and it intrigued me."

Entry into Exploration Geophysics

He called and got an interview with Dr. John Karcher, president of Geophysical Research Corp. -- the very first geophysical company. GRC was backed by .....and was a one year old subsidiary of Amerada." But coming from Bell, then the largest laboratory in the world, Salvatori was totally unimpressed.

"They had a tiny office. It didn't look as if they were going to be in business for long. Karcher explained to me I would be involved in radioactive and temperature measurements, seismic ... but I wasn't looking for a job." Two or three meetings later, however, Karcher convinced him to join the GRC lab in Newark.

As Salvatori gave notice, the head of personnel at Bell joked: "So you're going to look for oil with psychological means?" Salvatori corrected: "No, geophysical." And he remembers, "He gave me a leave of absence - just in case I found that GRC was a fly-by-night operation. And I sure was glad to have a place to go back to when I finally arrived at my new work site. I thought I had the wrong address! There was a drugstore, a delicatessen - no lab. But there it was, on top of the delicatessen."

Dr. Fabian Kannenstine, head of the GRC laboratory, gave him his first assignment minutes after Salvatori hung up his coat. He was to design and build a borehole differential thermometer with an accuracy of 1/1,000 of a degree. "The best the market had to offer could be used to 1/100 of a degree. That was a big enough challenge. My first problem, though, was simply the space. The lab was so small that had we build that 30-foot apparatus there, the pipe would have had to be put out the window about 10 feet."

He did, however, manage to develop an instrument of unprecedented accuracy, but shrugs off the part he played by claiming he found the answers in a technical paper he had read at the Bell research library. "Made me look like a genius in front of Kannenstine."

After some additional instrument work in radioactive and electrical measurements, Salvatori finally arrived in the wild west, i.e., Tulsa, on July 4, 1926. GRC had just formed a crew which would experiment with the refraction method for exact depth determination. He was put in charge of it.

Early Reflection Seismic Experiments

The target area, near Blackwell, Oklahoma, had been extensively drilled with core holes by Amerada, and the seismic results would be compared with the available geological data, which of course were withheld from the crew. The chief geologist for Amerada was Dr. Sidney Powers - one of the men Salvatori still most admires.

"Amerada geologists were skeptical of the results which might be obtained by geophysical methods. Much to their amusement the first maps we produced were rather laughable. The contours were haywire because all we were plotting was noise. But Sidney Powers was an unusual man, brusque but kind, who didn't consider geophysics a threat. He was behind us."

However paltry GRC's lab, in it they had already improved on the rather chancy mechanical seismographs introduced by Ludger Mintrop, in which time of explosion was determined from time of arrival of the airwave. GRC developed the electrical seismograph radio communication between the shot point and the recording trucks, which registered the actual time break by radio. This also made it possible to verify that at the prescribed explosion time the trucks were at their positions - not stranded in the mud on the way.

In 1926, however, radio, like the seismograph, was far from sophisticated; the GRC experimental crew was hardly well-equipped. Their vacuum tube amplifier, for instance, a six-tube resistance coupled device, was so unstable that many a night the observer had to stand vigil changing tubes until it was silenced. Other than the amplifier, the rest of the equipment consisted simply of a single trace camera (modified from a vintage hand-cranked moving picture camera with a Westinghouse galvanometer), and a 13-pound electrical geophone - just three essential units without frills such as volume control or test circuits.

Moreover, with only a one-trace truck, each geophone position required a shot of dynamite - a time consuming process. So to compensate for the meagerness of equipment, working 12-15 hours a day was standard. (Salvatori points out that with the Wagner Act still nine years in the future, those doodlebuggers shrugged off the grueling schedule as routine.)

Three months after the operation began, Salvatori informed Amerada the seismic results were ready. At the Enid, Oklahoma district office he handed over his depth figures to an anxious group, with DeGolyer and Karcher present. Salvatori recalls: "Much to the surprise of everyone, all but one of the figures checked with the Amerada cores within less than 10 feet - and I had placed a question mark along the one which was in error by about 20 feet. While the results appeared impressive, they were not in fact surprising since we were mapping a good marker (Herrington lime) found at only 400 to 700 feet in depth in that particular area."

DeGolyer was so impressed that the following day Salvatori was instructed to start actual production work in an area near Enid. There the first good limestone marker was found at much greater depths and as a result the refraction data did not provide the high degree of accuracy (10 to 15 feet) required. Thus, in the spirit of DeGolyer's pet motto, "A technique exhausts its usefulness by being used," Karcher asked Salvatori to experiment with reflections. This decision was to prove crucial in the future of Amerada/GRC, Salvatori, and geophysics at large.

"We were looking for reflections, and we had never seen any before," he says. "Unexplainably, it was the general impression at that time that reflected waves were of the 'sonic' type. So to record them, a geophone similar to a telephone should be used. Because of its configuration, the only way to couple it to the ground was by placing it in a hole within a six-inch casing full of water, so the geophone's diaphragm would move freely with varying water pressures. To enumerate all the trouble we had with this method would require a volume."

After failing to obtain reflection data in the Enid area, Salvatori's crew was moved to Anthony, Kansas to join J. E. Duncan's - an experimental crew which had just been formed. Duncan and Salvatori worked together with two recording trucks for six or seven weeks seeking the elusive reflections - still, no success. Finally, just before Christmas, both party chiefs agreed to send a telegram to Karcher.

"We had done all we could," says Salvatori, "and since the outlook for success in that area was grim, we suggested our crews be moved elsewhere. So I was sent to Shreveport, Louisiana to continue the work in an area near that city. Duncan's crew went to Oklahoma.

"Finally, in February or March of 1927 we began to get what appeared as definite reflection breaks at certain shot points. But when we tried to actually work the area the results were too erratic to yield any reliable information."

And so the crew moved to Timpson, Texas, where the troublesome diaphragm-type geophone was abandoned in favor of the old seismometer used in refraction work. "Why we didn't do this before I don't know to this day," says Salvatori.

Shot hole depths were not deemed to affect the quality of the records in those days, so they were drilled arbitrarily to about 20-28 feet. But observer Frank Borman noticed that holes in valleys rendered better readings than those in hills - which lead to the realization that the best records were obtained from holes drilled to the water table.

Duncan's crew finally began working in the Seminole area in Oklahoma in the summer of 1927 and it was there that the first clear and consistent reflections were obtained from the Viola limestone.

"This was a fortunate break for the budding method," says Salvatori. "Amerada immediately ordered three crews to do reflection work in the Seminole Plateau. Mine and that of Dr. H. Bates Peacock, which had just been formed, were moved to the area. And an additional crew was put together under the direction of Dr. Beese. In some locations, however, we had problems such as excessive low frequency and ground roll. Dr. Kannenstine then developed a new amplifier which almost completely eliminated the ground roll."

Other in-house improvements followed - trucks were equipped with two cameras, and later a four-string camera and better geophones were introduced. Computation methods were formulated and standardized for much more accurate correlations. Consequently, by the fall of 1928 the reflection method was a reality in which Salvatori had conducted some of the earliest work. But he emphasizes: "Dr. Karcher should get all the credit, since as head of GRC he was the one who never faltered in his belief that the method would work. It was his enthusiasm that convinced Amerada to continue to fund the experimental program."

And Amerada opted to retain such a bountiful monopoly - GRC's reflection crews were to work only for the parent company. Says Salvatori: "As far as I know, no one else had used the reflection method commercially as late as 1930."

Geophysical Service Inc.

Nobody the wiser, in February 1930 DeGolyer financed the start of a new firm to contract reflection work. Thus, Geophysical Service Inc. was born in Dallas, ending GRC's exclusive on the method. Karcher became its president, and Eugene McDermott (a young GRC physicist specializing in vacuum tubes and radio) its vice-president.

After some hesitation, Salvatori joined them as party chief and received a small percentage of the stock in the company. And he was in good company, for some of his colleagues were Dr. Roland Beers, Chalmers Pittman, Dr. Peacock, Dr. Kenneth Burg, Earl Johnson, and Cecil Green - all of whom were to become synonyms of geophysical excellence.

With professionals like those and a collective company policy that advocated revolutionary, rather than evolutionary, growth, GSI was to become a resounding success. In spite of the nation's depressed economy, only eight years after its inception GSI had 34 seismic crews operating around the world. By the 1950s it was the largest geophysical contractor ever.

What career heights Salvatori might have reached had he stayed at GSI is a matter of conjecture. It is difficult to imagine he could have fared better than he eventually did. In the summer of 1933 he sent Karcher a letter of resignation from California, where he was supervising four crews. For 32-year-old Salvatori it was time to try his own entrepreneurial wings - never mind the US ambience of wholesale bankruptcies and an unemployment rate of 24.9%. On August 15, 1933 he set up shop as Western Geophysical, with a personal capital of $9,000. A small storefront at 950 South Flower Street in Los Angeles became headquarters for that one-party, one-truck outfit. "Whether I was foolish or otherwise, I gave little thought to the economic depression. I was working 15 hours a day. I do remember, however, that in driving to Bakersfield or Fresno I'd pick up jobless farmers on the road to work for me." Others were highly trained and it wasn't rare to have a PhD working the jug-line. After all, $4.40 a day (on a dawn-'til-dark shift) was better than the soup kitchen.

Western Geophysical

Western's first two employees constituted party No. 1. Its chief was Dean Walling (also with a GRC-GSI background) and Dupree McGrady, the observer. They were contracted almost immediately by the joint venture of Associated Oil Co., General Petroleum, and Seaboard to work in Coalinga, California. In rapid succession they added new crews in California, Colorado and Kansas.

"We did extremely well," recalls Salvatori. "In one year we had 10 crews working in five states. By then we had a great, enthusiastic group of young men. Western's top management developed from those who became associated with me during these early years." Salvatori reels off a litany of names - "... Walling, McGrady, V. E. Prestine, Booth Strange, Michael Boccalery, Jack Desmond ..." and on and on.

Over 30 US seismic contracting companies came into existence during the '30s. But Salvatori and his hand-picked men would turn Western into an unqualified success - which he partially concedes luck had something to do with. As DeGolyer once said, "Prospecting is like gin rummy. Luck enough will win, but not skill alone. Best of all are luck and skill in proportion, but don't ask what the proportion should be." Salvatori qualifies this with: "To have the opportunity depends to a great extent on luck. Yet, when the opportunity arises you need to do whatever it takes to make it work."

Luck, he thinks, was a factor in getting one of his most important contracts only three months after Western's incorporation. "At the time I left GRC all the maps and reports for the work in the Seminole area bore my signature. About this time Stanolind Oil & Gas Company made a deal with Amerada to buy half of all its undrilled acreage in Oklahoma together with all the maps and reports on the reflection work done until the date of the purchase. With my name on so many of them, the Stanolind people inquired about me and learned that I had recently formed my own company. They called me one day requesting a crew to work in Oklahoma, later another for New Mexico, then a third one. They never questioned the price, and we developed a great working relationship."

The Stanolind (now Standard of Indiana) bonanza, however, first sent Salvatori quickly to the bank to finance the sudden demand for new crews. His only collateral was the contract with the company. Turned down, an angry Salvatori told the bank president: "This is the best kind of collateral you'll ever see!" - and stormed out to find a more adventurous lending institution. Salvatori was right, and that first single-branch bank surely missed the boat, for by 1936 Western had become the second largest seismic contractor, surpassed only by GSI.

Business sent Salvatori back to Tulsa where Western took a temporary backseat to a new concern in his mind. Grace Ford, a talented, attractive ballet teacher born and reared in the then Oil Capital of the World, was introduced to him at a dinner dance. But the short business trip didn't give Henry a fair chance to overwhelm her.

Luck on his side again, an audition for Midsummer Night's Dream took the young teacher with four of her most promising pupils to Los Angeles. She telephoned Salvatori just to say hello - making it clear, however, that she'd be too busy with rehearsals to see him. But the Italian penchant for romance, and American determination to succeed, produced a red rose delivered to Grace's hotel every 15 minutes from morning until almost midnight. She remembers:

"It was quite embarrassing, but my aunt Eula from Oklahoma who was visiting me at the time was intrigued and urged me to accept the dinner invitation as she would like to meet this brash fellow."

Salvatori adds: "I took Grace and her aunt to a Mexican restaurant in the old Spanish district and on the way I quickly realized that if I expected to make any headway with Grace I would first have to make a favorable impression on aunt Eula. As she was a teetotaler I asked a friendly waiter to spike the California fruit punch which she had requested. Soon I noticed her demeanor became more mellow and convivial. By the end of the evening I felt I had gained a friend and an ally. Following events proved this to be the case."

Like her husband, Grace Ford Salvatori finds satisfaction in promoting worthwhile causes, especially the education and health care of children, along with the advancement of the arts. Her charm makes her as popular now with the first family of the United States as she was with the teenage friends of their son Hank - she was the only mom in manicured Bel Air to allow football games on her front lawn.

The year of the Salvatoris' marriage, 1937, opened the marine field of operations for Western in the Gulf coast. "Marine," of course, was very close to shore, in less than 20 feet of water on a non-powered barge - such were the first offshore shoots. But Western was probably the first company to undertake them commercially. Later, with a combined exploration boom in the Gulf Coast and in South America, Western in 1955 became the world's largest offshore seismic contractor. From then until 1960 it conducted more offshore work each year than all the other geophysical contractors combined.

In fact, during the entire decade of the 1950s Western experienced above industry-average growth in spite of spirited competition. This was possible through innovation. One of their geophysical firsts was the development of equipment to correct analogue records for the normal moveout at 24 traces a pass on the magnetic drums (other contractors could only correct one trace at a time). Another was a method for preparing composite record sections from individual paper records with slightly different time scales by variable stretching of the records while still wet.

Also, Western introduced field techniques such as special methods for fault shooting, weathering determination, and the "H" and "Plus" spreads with all their variations - forerunners of the present day pattern spread.

At the administrative level, Western was equally abreast of the times. Salvatori's open-door leadership was based on his conviction that employees must feel a kinship with their company. To this end, in 1951 he instituted a profit-sharing fund which in effect made employees partners at no cost to them. The plan was so liberal and superior to other companies' benefits that some insinuated it would become a trap, for after a few years with Western one couldn't "afford" to leave. Sparing his people possible feelings of financial servitude, Salvatori offered a novel choice - one that awed even Fortune Magazine. In August 1954 he announced that any of Western's 900 US employees with five or more years of service could take a year's leave of absence, free to pursue a new position in a non-conflicting company. During the leave, the employee would remain in the profit-sharing plan and be entitled to all the other benefits upon returning to Western.

As to Salvatori's own duties, being president of such a trend-setting company of international reach didn't leave him much time for hobbies. (He claims he has none, except for tennis.) But in the 1950s, the success of his company assured, he developed a hobby of sorts - politics. He explains: "During that decade the radical left policies that had prevailed since the early '30s had begun to prove ineffective and dangerous. This resulted in the election of Eisenhower. But during his eight years in office the philosophy of the radical left still dominated academia and especially the news media - reasserting itself with the election of Kennedy. The conservative movement, however, continued to grow and by 1964, Barry Goldwater won the Republican nomination. While he was defeated in the general election, he set the base for a conservative revival."

Emerging as an outspoken champion of conservative Republican principles, the media took notice of Salvatori and his knack for raising funds and support for political candidates who shared his views. Salvatori never wished to, nor ran, for office, but he was determined to check the spreading of liberal tendencies in the US. That almost-holy crusade conflicted with his demanding business agenda.

"My interest in politics crowded into the time I felt should have belonged to Western. So I thought it would be to everyone's advantage to turn the company over to someone competent and with ample financial resources. Litton Industries was a fast-growing technology firm whose president and spark plug, Charles Thornton, I knew well. He assured me that as a Litton division, Western wouldn't lose its corporate identity."

Indeed, the transfer of stock ownership to Litton in 1960 didn't alter Western's autonomy or traditional operating principles. Instead, it opened access to the specialized skills of all the subsidiaries of the Litton complex. (Western now heads the Litton Resources Group - three companies that constitute the exploration arm of Litton Industries. The others are Aero Services [see The Leading Edge, September 1982] and Litton Resources Systems.)

Having appointed Dean Walling president of Western in 1959 and with the proceeds of a colossal transaction, Salvatori was free to concentrate on political and civic endeavors. But, once an entrepreneur ...

"I soon found out that I couldn't stop working. Fortunately I had a company, Grant Oil Tool, which I had paid no attention to. So, I built that up. It was exciting to be able to drill an oil well for the first time after all those years of exploration. And we got some oil in Louisiana." But Grant was sold five years ago. Like other companies he purchased and put in the black, it was interfering with more far-reaching pursuits.

Philanthropic Enterprises

Salvatori's altruism has always found an ideal partner in Grace. "While I'm on the political scene, she's involved in civic activities," he says with obvious pride as he relates some of the results of her own efforts.

One of them is the splendid Los Angeles Music Center; a friend's dream of a hole for the philharmonic orchestra found a powerful ally in Grace. She contacted every fellow music-lover she knew.

"Dorothy Chandler [wife of the publisher of the Los Angeles Times] and I alternated in inviting them to lunch to talk about the center - and ferret out money from them," says Grace, smiling. "We also wrote tons of letters and licked as many stamps."

She omits the fact that she, in a solo approach, persuaded General Motors to donate a Cadillac El Dorado convertible to be raffled off. The ensuing St. Patrick's Day 1955 gala raised $400,000 towards a $4-million goal. Grace's untiring drive continued until Dorothy's objective, which had become her own, was realized in 1964.

Dearest to Grace, however, is the cardiac unit she made possible at the Los Angeles Children's Hospital. Now her pet project is the construction of an auditorium at the Good Samaritan Hospital. "They need a proper facility for the great medical speakers they feature from all over the world."

Individuality with a common cause may epitomize the Salvatoris' way of life. Earlier, projecting this philosophy in business was considered his key to success. As Marianne Clarke, the retired editor of the company's "House Organ", wrote in the 25th anniversary issue: "... The concept of a family working together ... is only one of the many ideals of its founder that are part of the story of Western, for Mr. Salvatori set the pattern of the company in an extension of his own personality and beliefs."

Accordingly, his early associates and friends have continued seeing to Western's unflagging growth. Since 1940, when Salvatori first sent a crew overseas to Italy, Western has searched for oil and gas around the globe. In 1964 it spearheaded the geophysical digital era by adapting computer technology to recording and processing. Then, in 1965, Booth Strange, Western's third president, moved headquarters from Los Angeles to the emerging oil capital, Houston.

Nine years later, following a host of patents, innovations and corporate expansions, Western became the leading geophysical contractor in the world. Today it owns the largest private fleet of exploration ships (see The Leading Edge, April 1983) and employs 6,000 people worldwide, including about 1,000 at Houston headquarters.

The feat of building a company such as Western on $9,000 in initial capital has fostered Salvatori's unabashed conservatism. Not a turn-back-the-clock reactionary, he has total faith in the balancing forces of a free economy to reward enthusiasm and industriousness. His modesty regarding scientific, industrial, and philanthropic contributions recedes as he talks about the role he played in the elections of a mayor, a governor, and a president.

And if the book, California Inc., holds any truth, then Salvatori may be considered a decisive influence in "... the political maturation of California's brash new class of entrepreneurs," which the authors date to the 1966 gubernatorial campaign - one which Salvatori ran almost single-handedly as state finance chairman and campaign chief for southern California.

"State politics are very important," he says. He may send a check to a local campaign as far away as Vermont. "But today's social and economic issues demand wisdom at the federal level, too."

As a private citizen he provides some of it. It isn't rare for Salvatori to receive a call from President Reagan asking his opinion on an energy-related matter, nor for him and Grace to attend a dinner at the White House.

Salvatori's uncompromising philosophy has earned him honors such as American of the Year from the Americanism Educational League (1966), and Free Enterprise Man of the Year (1967) from the San Fernando Valley Business and Professional Association, among others. Of course, his "moderate conservatism," as he calls it, is not everybody's cup of tea, but it is difficult to dispute that living by his principles can be rewarding.

Geophysics, the field he and his contemporaries entered when it was aspiring to become a science, and when crews were peddled on a pay-only-if-satisfied basis, was well served by Salvatori. Geophysics, in turn, has afforded him acknowledgments (SEG's Honorary Membership in 1971 being but one of many) and "the luxury to do good." His success notwithstanding, he considers his greatest accomplishment as "... having established a company with good morale and high satisfaction of all the employees. It was the family spirit which prevailed throughout the entire personnel that assured the company's success."

Salvatori never retired from Western, or from anything for that matter. For example, as he's writing an article for his company's 50th anniversary issue of the Profile he receives a progress report on an oil well he's drilling - or he stops to sign a check for the Red Cross - or he may take a break to study the platform of a promising candidate or to be interviewed.

He smiles often, and does so while answering a redundant question: "Well, I expect to continue as long as my health is good. If the Lord gives me the opportunity to be active, I'll be active."


  1. Proubasta, D. (1983)."HENRY SALVATORI.” The Leading Edge, 2(8), 14–22.