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H. J. Heinz

he turned horseradish into an empire

H.J. Heinz

Henry John Heinz was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on October 11, 1844, one of eight children born to German immigrants John Henry and Anna Margaret (Schmidt) Heinz. When he was six, the family moved to Sharpsburg, Pennsylvania.

Heinz began his business career at the age of 8, selling excess vegetables from his mother's garden. By the time he was 9, Henry was making and selling his own brand of horseradish sauce, and by the age of 10 he had his own garden plot and had gone from carrying his products in a basket to using a wheelbarrow. By age 12 he was using a horse-drawn cart to deliver his horseradish sauce and other fresh produce to Pittsburgh grocery stores three times a week, and by 17 he was grossing $2,400 a year. After graduating from Duff's Business College, Henry went to work in the office of his father's brick factory, eventually becoming a partner in the firm, while still growing and selling fresh produce.

Henry Heinz married Sarah Sloan Young on September 23, 1869. The couple had 3 sons (Clarence, Clifford, Howard) and 1 daughter (Irene). Sarah died in 1894.

In 1869, Heinz and Clarence J. Noble opened Heinz, Noble & Company to make and bottle horseradish. The product line came to include pickles, sauerkraut, and vinegar, but the company went bankrupt in 1875. Barely a year after his first business failure, Heinz, with brother John and cousin Frederick, formed F. J. Heinz & Co., which produced the same products as the previous company, plus ketchup.

In 1888, Heinz bought out his partners and reorganized the business into H.J. Heinz Company. By the time the company was incorporated in 1905, it had become the country's leading manufacturer of ketchup, mustard, pickles, and vinegar. According to company folklore, Heinz came up with the slogan "57 varieties" in 1892 (when his factories were already making more than 60 different products). Inspired by an advertisement he saw while riding an elevated train in New York City (a shoe store boasting "23 styles"), Heinz picked the number more or less at random because he liked the sound of it, selecting 7 specifically because, as he put it, of the "psychological influence of that figure and of its alluring significance to people of all ages." As the company's list of products grew to hundreds, Heinz held to the number 57 for "occult reasons."

Well known for pioneering safe and sanitary food preparation, Heinz actively lobbied for passage of the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906. Heinz was also well known for treating his employees very well, providing them with the most pleasant work surroundings possible, and, as a result, never having to deal with strikes or other labor disputes.

Henry John Heinz died of pneumonia at his home in Pittsburgh on May 14, 1919, and was buried in that city's Homewood Cemetery.

"H.J. Heinz Is Victim of Pneumonia" Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh
Notorious Names Database

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This page was last updated on October 04, 2017.