H. J. Heinz: Benevolent American Businessman

“’Reduced to its concrete terms, quality is simply truth and genuineness’…To Henry Heinz it would have been inconceivable to make anything less good than the best that he knew he could make.” (McCafferty, 19)

HeinzFactoryHenry Heinz’ ketchup factory was located in Pittsburgh, PA (Maloney). Starting as a small family-owned business, he struck out with land and crops, hoping to grow larger in his relish and horseradish business (Maloney). After the financial Panic of 1873 put Heinz in a tough position, he made a point of paying off his creditors and keeping his factory going until the last possible moment, borrowing money from family and his wife to pay his debts (McCafferty; 77, 89). Eventually, through years of hard work and patience, he built his company back up to a thriving enterprise, with over “57 varieties” of product (Butko). Heinz actually came up with his ’57 Varieties’ slogan for no reason other than that he had been looking at another advertisement on the street that featured numbers, and thought that 57 would be a memorable number (Butko).

HeinzWorkersHe was a man who fostered goodwill toward himself and his company wherever he went, putting honesty and integrity above all else in his business dealings. Notably, when Heinz was at the helm, he had a philosophy that his factory workers would work best if they were happy and well-cared for, but he went beyond even this, caring for each member of his factory teams on a personal level. “He believed in keeping men; and men did not willingly leave him (McCafferty, 93).” A story of, “One girl whom he employed in his small beginnings,” who later, “brought in her five sisters whom she was supporting,” to the company was typically evocative of Heinz’ working environment (McCafferty, 95). People stayed because Heinz made it worth staying. This care also extended to his product: “The tiny organization of 1876 and the huge that he lived to see—all were inspired by that dominant regard for the product of the earth as something precious (McCafferty, 102). He was spinning a genuine tale of American joviality and business sense that appealed both to workers and consumers alike. HeinzFactory2

Heinz’ integrity would last beyond the choice to incorporate. As corporations knocked at his door, the ketchup king reportedly said:

“‘I do not care for your money, neither do I or my family wish to go out of business. We are not looking for ease or rest or freedom from responsibility. I love this business. Your talk of more money and less responsibility means nothing to me. To stop work is death—mentally and physically. This business is run, not for my family or a few families, but for what we call the Heinz family—the people who make our goods and sell them. The Heinz policy is to work for a better business rather than a bigger business; to make, if possible, a better product, and to make better people as we go along. We are working for success, and not for money. The money part will take care of itself.” (McCafferty, 107-108)

Heinz was born out of a family steeped in the Methodist tradition, a Protestant religious ethic of hard work and benevolence, with a more jovial demeanor than the hardy, severe and pious colonists of the 1700s (Kurtik). While always philanthropic of character, though, he was still a smart businessman and decided to maximize his newfound prosperity at the World’s Columbian Exposition in 1893 (Butko). Heinz was not blind to the consumerist tendencies of the American public in the late 19th century.

Sources:

  • Butko, Brian. “Heinz – Much More than 57 Varieties.” Pennsylvania Heritage Spring 2012: n. pag. Pennsylvania Heritage. Spring 2012. Web. 29 Nov. 2014.
  •  Kurtik, Frank J. “H.J. Heinz Was a Member of Various Churches in His Lifetime.” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 26 Sept. 2014: n. pag. Print.
  • Maloney, Sean, and William Cadamore. “Success in Every Bottle: The H.J. Heinz Company.” The Pennsylvania Center for the Book (2009): n. pag. Web. 29 Nov. 2014.
  • McCafferty, E. D. Henry J. Heinz; a Biography. New York: Bartlett Orr, 1923. Print.
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