Tuesday, January 20, 2009

H.J. Heinz

The other day I was using Heinz ketchup and I remembered I had been given a copy of his Biography by the Heinz Company in April of 1973, I read the book from cover to cover. This is such an interesting book, he is among the first icons of American History and what a success he was. I have read this book at least three times.

Henry Heinz was born in 1844 in Birmingham, now the south side of Pittsburg, PA.. At the age of eight he had to do his share of the family's labor. His mother had a kitchen garden as it grew bigger, he went into the village and sold the produce, when ten he went from a basket to a wheelbarrow, and two years later a horse and wagon. His feet was already set on the path that willlead him to great success, but at this time neither himself or his parents had such dreams.

Henry's parents wanted him to be a minister, and they sent him to school for this. The house in Sharpsburg, Pa. had a bountiful kitchen garden and Henry helped and was so interested in it, so without intending it, his mother directed his course of life away from the ministry. So, a business genius was saved to the world.

In 1869 he married, and he formed a firm which became the ancestor to today's company. The firm formed by Mr. Heinz was a partnership with l.C. Noble, the firm was named Heinz & Noble. Henry' s first product was grated horse-radish in bottles, he had faith that food products could be made into a big enterprise. In 1871 they expanded, and a year later Henry took on another partner, E.J. Noble brother to L.C. Noble. By 1874 the firm was cultivating one hundred acres in the Allegheny River Valley.

There was the Panic of 1873, it spread far and wide, but the young company weathered it. In 1875 the company had expanded again, they had made arrangements to buy crops from a canning and pickling company in Illinois. The year 1875 turned out to be a phenomenal crops, the bumper crop was coming in at the rate of two thousand bushels a day, calling for twelve hundred dollars a day, not to mention cabbage and other crops coming in. Not that this was bad enough another financial crisis passed over the land, bank's failed and could not honor checks,Henry's company was failing.

This is from his diary: Oct. 17-I have by the aid and strength of God, saved the firms paper from protest. Nov. 2-:I have two hundred dollars to meet tomorrow and not a penny to meet it with: The crops kept rolling in, he borrowed money from his wife, it hurt him to do this. The crash came and his records showed he did everything to meet the firm's obligations.

In those days when you file bankruptcy and you want to continue your company, you have to use a different name. Henry was thirty-one years old when disaster fell on him, he had a wife and two children. His brother John and cousin Fredrick Heinz gave him money to start anew, so in February 6, 1876 under the name F. & J. Heinz the business was launched once again. With the understanding John and Fredrick would be stock holders.

The history of the business after 876 may be divided into three periods--1876 to 1888 in which year the firm name Heinz Company, 1905-when the partnership form was changed to the corporate form under the same name and 1905 to present time. He had succeeded as he always did, in 1888 he took over, his brother John wanted to go west. Henry believed in God, himself and his fellow man. We all know that there are a variety of product made by Heinz, a long cry from his starting product, horse-radish, which is still sold today.

Henry Heinz, had developed a cold and was advised to stay in bed, he was assured he could leave for New York in a few day's. On Sunday he became worse, developed pneumonia, on Tuesday at 4 o'clock on the next afternoon the end came, the year was 1919. Henry was the first employer to provide dinning-rooms, locker rooms, first aid station, hired a trained nurse and free life insurance (which I am sure is not free now day's).

The reason I received this book from The Heinz company , is I bought an old old bottle 1888 from a vendor at Muskegon flea market, it was aqua, the side panel's were embossed F & J Heinz. I knew right away this was old and I contacted the company. They not only sent me the book but literature, and photos of their old bottles up to the present. They told me I had a rare bottle and should read the book and I would know what was in the bottle (horse-Radish). There is a lot of reading in this book and I would recomend it, you will not be disapointed. The book is 233 pages long and has many photos in it.


  1. Hi Margaret,

    I like your new blog. I can't imagine trying to keep up with two! :-) Good Luck and have fun!

    I love Pittsburgh and nearly everything Pittsburgh so I also love the Heinz Co. Senator Heinz was an amazing man and the Heinz family, especially Theresa, continue to give of themselves to our wonderful city. Amazing…it all started with ketchup.

  2. This was such an interesting post Margaret..

  3. Very interesting post. Fun to read the background of these companies that are still around today. In todays economic situation I think we will find a lot of companies struggling to stay afloat.

  4. Well done to the Heinz family - they weathered the storms. Here in Australia we had two companies who were giants (Arnotts and Ansett). Unfortunately in the last 20 years both companies have been sold off to overseas interests or collapsed. Ansett was an airline. Arnotts was a tragedy (the selling). They were an Australian icon. Pity really - their products have gone down in standard (that's for sure).

  5. Interesting!! Heinz bottles.. something else to remember to look for...LOL

  6. What a great review of Henry J. Heinz's biography, Margaret. I love biographies, and will look for this book.

    Thanks so much for following my blog. I haven't had time for a new post. Hopefully, soon.

    Happy Sunday!


  7. Sounds like they are still a good company as they were good enough to send you the book!!
    I wonder how many companies today would do that!

  8. My family is from Pittsburgh, I was the only one born in California. My grandmother retired from Heinz a long time ago(she was born in 1889)! I remember her telling me that she made ketchup! It's still the only ketchup I buy! It's the best!

  9. Thank you friends for coming by, just think without Heinz we would not have all that tasty products.