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Thumbnail of Henry John Heinz (source)
Henry John Heinz
(11 Oct 1844 - 14 May 1919)

American businessman who founded H.J. Heinz Co.and invented its “57 varieties” slogan


Henry John Heinz

from Financial Giants of America (1922)

Henry John Heinz
Henry John Heinz

[p.286] Henry John Heinz was a gentleman. No greater tribute can be paid to him. He built up an enormous business in the condiment industry, starting with one product from the family garden, expanding until his famous trademark “57 varieties” became known throughout the world. He kept expanding his business until the Heinz factories now preserve over 225 varieties of relishes.

[p.287] THERE have been many in the business world who have achieved success but Henry J. Heinz achieved success in such a manner that even the most strait-laced moralist and student of ethics can find nothing about his career to condemn. Heinz placed God, his country, and his home above his business. He sincerely wanted to be a help to his fellow men more than he wanted to be a giant of industry.

His parents were thoughtful and very religious. They were unusually fond of their son Henry and when he was but a child they saw wonderful possibilities in store for him. Consequently he was given a good education, an excellent bringing up, and an opportunity to follow up the line of work in which he showed particular interest,—gardening.

For some time he helped his father, who made bricks, until he observed that there was really more produce in the little four acre family garden than they could use themselves. He suggested that he might be able to sell the surplus in the neighborhood. With his father’s consent he started out on his first business venture. In one summer alone, before he had reached the age of seventeen, he sold over $2,000 of garden-truck from the Heinz farm.

He proved that he possessed the shrewd business ability of his ancestors and had an unlimited power to make friends. He was so successful with his small marketing business that his parents relinquished their fond hopes and wishes of some day seeing their son in the ministry. They sent him to a business college rather than to a theological school. There he studied hard, always keeping in mind the fact that he might learn something to help the folks “back home.” He specialized particularly in commercial accounting and sure enough, when he went back to the brickyard he became his father’s bookkeeper and assistant. He introduced new methods by which they could make brick in the winter as well as the summer. [p.288] His father was justly proud and pleased and gave him a partnership in the business to show his appreciation.

Henry thought that the opportunities in his father’s business were not sufficient for him so he left, with his father’s consent and formed a partnership in Beaver Falls in a business similar to that of his father’s.

When he had worked on the farm, and met with such success as a salesman he had had visions of a more extensive market for the produce. This idea was constantly in the back of his mind so he finally left brick-making and with L. C. Noble opened up a small packing and preserving house in one room of a small building in Sharpsburg, Pa. Heinz realized the value of concentrated effort so he at first dealt in horseradish only. All the raw product was taken from the little family garden and treated in a new way and bottled. Heinz himself used to peddle this horseradish carrying his stock in a basket. The business grew and he acquired a wheel-barrow to help him distribute the relish which met with such popularity. Finally he had to get a horse and wagon.

He added different lines of pickles, jams, and jellies as his profits warranted. E. J. Noble was added to the partnership and the business was moved to a large four story building in Pittsburgh. The Nobles retired from the firm after a very successful three years, and Henry Heinz in 1875 sold an interest to his brother, John H., and his cousin Frederick. In 1882 vinegar was added to the other relishes sold, and a vinegar plant was established. The business kept growing and in 1905 was incorporated with Henry John Heinz as president.

Through all the years of development Mr. Heinz insisted on absolute cleanliness throughout the plant. He saw the ideas of his youth bear fruit, and his plans and business ambitions always kept well ahead of the rapidly growing industry. From the first he wanted to give the public tasty relishes, well preserved and packed, at a reasonable price. Though he had many chances to make more by charging higher rates he never deviated from this underlying principle.

The Heinz pickling industry today requires the services of over 50,000 workers. Over 100,000 acres are used to grow [p.289] the products they preserve. There are over 4,000 employes at the main plant; 16 branch factories, 22 acres of floor space, 71 salting houses, 45 distributing centers, and 400 salesmen, scattered in America, Europe, Australia, and Africa. The famous trademark, those distinctive figures “57” conveys the idea to the public that Heinz makes 57 varieties of product. People have asked in wonderment, “Do you suppose they really make that many kinds of product?” And the answer is that the 57 varieties has grown until it now reaches over 225.

Mr. Heinz was a firm believer in the power of the printed word. Throughout his establishment he placed mottoes of the highest inspirational nature. He was found of quoting these and was very careful to “practice what he preached.” It is said that his favorite maxim was “Make all you can honestly; save all you can prudently; give all you can wisely.”

Certainly his life history shows that he lived up to the spirit of this epigram. He was pre-eminently honest, and never entered any business deal that hinted at being within the law, but not quite up to the Golden Rule. He was careful and shrewd with his wealth; and he gave thousands to charitable and educational institutions. He was largely instrumental in founding and was one of the chief supporters of Kansas City University. His gifts to his employes are unusual, not because of their size, but because of the fact that their source was often unknown.

Mr. Heinz was very happily married in 1869 to Miss Sallie Sloan Young. His wife was vivacious, religious, and established for him a home that was an added inspiration. They had four children, one daughter, and three sons who are actively engaged in the business. When his son Howard was at Yale University he became interested in Boys’ Club work and upon his return home received the hearty cooperation of his father in erecting a special building with modern equipment to carry on this work.

Mr. Heinz left many memorials of his greatness, his magnanimity, and his kindness. Of these the most conspicuous is the business he built up, the philanthropic institutions he established there, and the wonderful example he made of his own life and work to inspire those who worked for him.

[p.290] Life insurance policies are given outright to any employee who has been with the company for three years. The face of the policy grows from $250 at its inception to $1,000, depending on the length of service of the worker. These policies have no red-tape attached and do not protect either the company or the employe, but are protection for the dependent the employe has chosen as his beneficiary.

Heinz established welfare work on a firm footing long before it came into vogue as a sound, paying business proposition for industrial concerns to adopt. He was animated not by the quest of the almighty dollar but by the thoughtfulness and generosity of his nature which was his outstanding characteristic. Of course he realized that welfare work increases the efficiency of his force thereby increases the output, but by no means did he put it on the basis of dollars and cents alone. He had erected a roof-garden, and under it a library, gymnasium, auditorium, picture-gallery, dance-hall, baths, swimming pool, educational classes, a hospital, and other projects of a similar nature. Such organizations as Dockstader’s Minstrels are taken to the Heinz plant to give a special performance whenever they come to town.

These activities and benefits are shared by friends as well as by employes. The customary notice “For Employes Only” is not seen in the welfare work of this great man. The homes of the employes are made brighter and happier by the philanthropy of the Heinz institution. Friends are always welcome at all amusement features. The Dental Department not only cares for the teeth of the employes but it gives instruction in oral hygiene to their families.

Heinz wanted to treat his co-workers fairly and squarely, and he did. In the matter of promotions, which has caused no little trouble in other plants, the existing atmosphere at the Heinz institution is reported by an employe who said, “The only man around here who has a better job than I have is the fellow who has been here longer.”

A rather unusual business rule was adopted early in the life of the industry by Mr. Heinz which was adhered to always, namely “no one in my employ shall ever have his wages reduced.”

[p.291] The wonderful organization which he built up had as its basis his own personality. He was respected and loved by those who worked for him. He was always happy to talk, to work, or to play with even the commonest laborer. He knew many by name, and whenever he saw a new face when he went through the plant he made it a point to make the new man feel at home. He would always make the advances. This practice was so well known, and so highly thought of that it is the affectionate jest of many of the men to take one another by the arm and say imitatingly, “Young man, how long have you been with us?” Yet this is not done in the spirit of mockery, but is done with all due respect and pride in the fact that their employer was genuinely interested in them.

At Christmas time Heinz remembered every one of his employes. He originated the happy custom of giving to the parents in his employ a silver spoon, whenever the stork visits their household. The sick were visited by someone that he had sent, if he was unable to go himself. Weddings were made merrier, and the sadness of funerals soothed by the big-heartedness of the man. He relieved those in financial distress very quietly, frequently keeping his name out of the transaction entirely.

Years before his death Mr. Heinz said, “I am no longer trying to make money. What I am interested in now is to make more success.” And this was the thought he brought home at all the salesmen’s conventions. He did not talk of sales records, or quote prices, or complain about expenses. Instead he emphasized character above everything else. He once said, “Rather a man with 50 per cent ability and 100 per cent character than a man with 100 per cent ability and 50 per cent character.” In the sales rooms there is no motto to the effect that sales must be increased 100 per cent. Instead he had framed and placed there the quotation, “The ruling principle of our business must be to secure the permanent satisfaction of the consumer and the full confidence of the trade.”

At different times in his career Mr. Heinz was a bank director, a real estate man, and an important power in the State Sabbath School Association. In all these projects, as well as in his particular business, those who came in contact with [p.292] him profited by his suggestion and were taught by his example.

His suggestion and help is always given in such a courteous manner that it does not offend or irritate the man he is trying to help. Specific instances are recorded that bear repeating. Not once, but several times, he got out of his car jumped into the excavation that was being dug for a new warehouse, and showed a foreign laborer a more efficient way of handling the pick and shovel. Many times he relieved the man at the information desk in the main office, where salesmen and visitors are received. He would take the cards of the salesmen, show callers around the plant, do the simplest routine work without the slightest air of self-consciousness. Afterwards he would politely show the deskman just how his tasks might be made easier and more enjoyable. He would interrupt a conference in order to show an office boy how to excuse himself politely if an occasion for apology for interrupting a conference again arose. And never did he leave the least spirit of resentment or embarrassment in the minds of those he was instructing.

This practice exemplified another of his maxims which was: “To do a common thing uncommonly well brings success.”

He was interested in art and collected many treasures in his extensive travels. His chief hobbies in this line were old watches, ivory-carvings, pottery, and tapestries. For a long time he stored these in his home, but finally their number had increased to such an extent that he did not have adequate room for them all. Consequently he filled several rooms in the Carnegie Institute with the curios he had collected. Some of these were loaned while others were given outright. Among his gifts to the museum was a collection of several hundred watches, the oldest dating back to 1590, and including the timepieces owned at one time by notables throughout the entire globe. Another collection is that of ebony canes with carved ivory handles. These were at one time carried by the students at Heidelberg, and the carving indicates to what corps a student belonged.

The house of the pickle king was in Pittsburgh, a large and spacious mansion that was rich with costly and unique furnishings. The story is often told of the artist who painted for Mr. Heinz a frieze of the library he was decorating.

“Whose portraits are they?” Mr. Heinz asked.

“Michelangelo, Savonarola, Moliere—”

“Stop,” Heinz said with a smile, “But, my good man it just so happens that I’m an American. My tastes and my money are all American-made and I have every reason to be proud of my country. Now will you be so kind as to just efface those foreign dignitaries, and put in their places a few good American faces such as Longfellow’s, Ben Franklin’s, Whittier’s and the like. It would please me much better.”

Approximately 50,000 visitors come to the Heinz plant annually, to see the model working conditions, to try to grasp “that something”—the intangible atmosphere of good fellowship—that Mr. Heinz through his efforts and wonderful personality built up. Those outside the plant who are privileged to attend some of the gatherings of the workers, are astounded at the spontaneity and the genuine sincerity with which the speakers pay tribute to their leader. He was dearly loved by many of the employes. Once, after he had been abroad, he was welcomed when he returned by a carefully planned reception that the factory girls had initiated. A burst of hundreds of American flags were waved from the windows as his automobile drove up to the plant. The employes took pride and pleasure in celebrating his birthday. They always gave him a token of some kind, and the happiness he always showed on such occasions gave to them the thrill that is found only in genuine appreciation.

An employe who went to his office or home to work or get instructions, rarely left without receiving a gift of some kind from Mr. Heinz as a memento of the visit. Sometimes he would give them a book, sometimes a painting or antique; and the greatest gift of all was his generous and thoughtful spirit.

When some problem was to be worked out; when some new venture was planned; the worker caught tremendous incentive and enthusiasm when they were told that what they were doing was “the wish of Mr. Heinz.” They would do their very best, and the results were generally surprisingly successful.

[p.294] It is quite natural that there has never been any general strike on the part of the Heinz employes. He realized what could be done to make the workers’ task lighter and pleasanter, and he did his best to do it. The plant to him not an endless tangle of machine like humans, it was a great big happy family.

Another of the big business principles he put into practice and found very successful was that the organization must always be self-perpetuating. Everyone must have an understudy, and at the same time be understudying someone other than himself or herself. Through such a system, which provided amply for expansion, material for high salaried positions was always available without going afield to pick a man for the job. Heinz wanted his employes to know that they had a future before them, he wanted them to stay with his concern and grow with it.

His teaching and philanthropic work was remarkable in itself, yet the outstanding fact is that it was all so well received. Industrial leaders throughout the country are fearful of the attitude which their business philanthropies so frequently develop. The resentment of patronage, and the simultaneous demand for more favors and privileges, is not at all uncommon in plants where welfare work has begun. But in the Heinz plant the encouragement, the hope of something better, that is predominant in the welfare work is appreciated by everyone, and is not accepted as being part of the advertising schedule of the “big boss.”

Personally he was a generously built man with a most remarkable benevolent looking face, kindly eyes, a flowing mustache and side whiskers. He was active in business for over forty years and succumbed to pneumonia in 1919.

His philanthropies not only were distributed in this country but in Japan, China, and Korea. This was due to the fact that he visited these lands when he was chairman of a Sunday School Commission.

Henry John Heinz was a financial giant, a powerful force in the industrial world,—but he was more—he was a gentleman in the truest most literal sense of the word. He was a type that is scarce in our money-mad country. He has given to the world the largest pickling industry ever established [p.295] and his produce is famous throughout the globe. The variety of his interests did not stop at the famous “57.” He made money; he made pickles; but most important of all he made happiness for those with whom he was associated.

Text and portrait photo from George F. Redmond, Financial Giants of America (1922), Vol. 2, 286-295. (source)


See also:

Nature bears long with those who wrong her. She is patient under abuse. But when abuse has gone too far, when the time of reckoning finally comes, she is equally slow to be appeased and to turn away her wrath. (1882) -- Nathaniel Egleston, who was writing then about deforestation, but speaks equally well about the danger of climate change today.
Carl Sagan Thumbnail Carl Sagan: In science it often happens that scientists say, 'You know that's a really good argument; my position is mistaken,' and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn't happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion. (1987) ...(more by Sagan)

Albert Einstein: I used to wonder how it comes about that the electron is negative. Negative-positive—these are perfectly symmetric in physics. There is no reason whatever to prefer one to the other. Then why is the electron negative? I thought about this for a long time and at last all I could think was “It won the fight!” ...(more by Einstein)

Richard Feynman: It is the facts that matter, not the proofs. Physics can progress without the proofs, but we can't go on without the facts ... if the facts are right, then the proofs are a matter of playing around with the algebra correctly. ...(more by Feynman)
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