Ketch-up on Heinz History

Discover how the Heinz family business began with eight-year old Henry John Heinz selling produce from his mother’s garden in Sharpsburg and grew to a worldwide company with more than 5,700 products in 200 countries around the globe.

Senator John Heinz History Center

Stories taken from "57 Servings From the Heinz Table," by Emily Ruby

H.J. Heinz (c. 1869)Original Source: Detre Library & Archives at the Heinz History Center

The Beginning

Henry John Heinz's dedication to hard work and a willingness to seek new opportunities — values learned from his parents — became hallmarks of his career.

H.J. Heinz, portrait (1864)Original Source: Detre Library & Archives at the Heinz History Center

H.J. Heinz, 1864

Born in 1844 to John Henry and Anna Margaretta Heinz, Henry John Heinz grew up in Sharpsburg, Pa., the first of their nine children.

By age 12, Heinz was tending a small garden and selling the produce to local grocers along with his mother’s prepared horseradish.

After taking classes at Duff’s Mercantile College in Pittsburgh, he began helping his father with bookkeeping at his brickyard and even came to own a half-interest in the business.

Copper kettle (c. 1860)Original Source: Heinz History Center Museum Collections

Copper kettle, c. 1860

Anna Heinz purportedly used this copper kettle to make apple butter. Descendants of her friends, the Shaw family, donated it to the History Center.

Heinz office (c. 1900)Original Source: Detre Library & Archives at the Heinz History Center

Heinz office, c. 1900

Heinz credited his mother for his strong faith and work ethic, and for his love of motivational proverbs and aphorisms that he called “mottoes.”

He used them to decorate his company office, stained glass windows at the factory, and company exhibitions. Heinz’s favorite mottoes can be seen on the walls of his office.

Heinz Company exhibition (c. 1940)Original Source: Detre Library & Archives at the Heinz History Center

Heinz Company exhibition, c. 1940

Over time they became a part of the culture and guiding principles of the Heinz company and were used long after his death. The most enduring of his personal mottoes: “To do a common thing uncommonly well brings success.”

Evaporated horseradish, catalog illustration (1895)Original Source: Detre Library & Archives at the Heinz History Center

Evaporated horseradish, catalog illustration, 1895

Heinz’s first product would have been grated horseradish, but by 1895 the company also offered evaporated horseradish.

Evaporated came at a cheaper price point and could be stored for long periods at temperatures that would degrade the fresh product. Heinz became the largest manufacturer of Evaporated Horseradish by 1895.

Heinz baked beans department (1907)Original Source: Detre Library & Archives at the Heinz History Center

An Innovative Factory

In the Pittsburgh factory, and later in factories around the world, Heinz employees prepared and packaged a wide variety of foods.

Heinz Processing Plant (c. 1900)Original Source: Detre Library & Archives at the Heinz History Center

Heinz processing plant, c. 1900

Each department had its own function: cooking soup or fruit preserves, making spaghetti or peanut butter, bottling pickles or olives. When different vegetables or fruits were in season, everyone pitched in to process them.

Employees fill bottles in the ketchup bottling department (1904)Original Source: Detre Library & Archives at the Heinz History Center

Employees fill bottles, 1904

Tomato season was the busiest time at the factory. Teams of workers sorted the tomatoes by hand while others manned the ketchup kettles and bottling machines, which ran 24 hours a day during the autumn harvest.

Heinz microbiological department (1965)Original Source: Detre Library & Archives at the Heinz History Center

Quality Control

In 1900, the Heinz Company established a chemistry laboratory staffed by bacteriologists, microscopists, and other scientists and technicians called “food technologists.”

Heinz experimental department (c. 1900)Original Source: Detre Library & Archives at the Heinz History Center

Heinz experimental department, c. 1900

The lab ensured the quality of produce, the accuracy of recipes and cooking procedures, the cleanliness of the manufacturing process, and the uniformity of finished products.

In the Quality Control Department, food technologists conducted research to improve the nutrition, flavor, and appearance of Heinz foods. One of the first of its kind, the Heinz Company lab pioneered a scientific approach to quality assurance and procedures.

Heinz imperial-style ketchup in translation (1895)Original Source: Detre Library & Archives at the Heinz History Center

Bottles and Product Labels

The label on this Heinz Imperial-brand bottle, the company’s top-of-the-line tomato ketchup, shows the transition from the keystone to pickle logo. Heinz also dropped the possessive "s" between 1890 and 1895.

Heinz baked beans, catalog illustration (1895)Original Source: Detre Library & Archives at the Heinz History Center

Heinz baked beans, catalog illustration, 1895

H.J. Heinz cared about what he put inside the bottle, but he also realized that the package made the first, and often most important, impression.

He carefully crafted the bottles and containers for his products, even patenting some, and put great thought into the label design.

Heinz walnut and mushroom ketchup, catalog illustration (1910)Original Source: Detre Library & Archives at the Heinz History Center

Heinz walnut & mushroom ketchup, catalog illustration, 1910

His labeling emphasized the fresh, natural ingredients inside, especially on containers whose contents could not be seen. For customers who could not read, these illustrative labels indicated the type of product inside.

Heinz's catsup crock (c. 1895)Original Source: Heinz History Center Museum Collections

Heinz's catsup crock, c. 1895

By making Heinz products stand out on the grocery shelf, the company created a memorable brand image for future purchases, especially as packaged foods (and competitors) expanded in the 20th century.

Aristocrat tomato advertising figure (c. 1935)Original Source: Heinz History Center Museum Collections

The Aristocrat Tomato

Boasting “the proudest pedigree in the vegetable kingdom,” Heinz launched the Aristocrat Tomato in the 1930s to promote its tomato-based products. Designed by Lloyd Weed of the Maxon Inc., it became the first of the famous “spokesmen” for Heinz products.

Heinz both at the World's Fair, Columbian Exposition (1893)Original Source: Detre Library & Archives at the Heinz History Center

The Pickle Charm

At the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago, H.J. Heinz found his company’s exhibition space located on the second floor of the Agricultural Building too far from major attractions.

Heinz "luggage" tag from the Columbian Exposition (1893)Original Source: Detre Library & Archives at the Heinz History Center

Heinz "luggage" tag from the Columbian Exposition, 1893

To draw visitors, he had small pieces of heavy paper cut to look like luggage tags and printed with an offer to the holder for a free souvenir at the Heinz exhibit. He scattered thousands of these tags throughout the fairgrounds.

It is estimated that over the course of the fair, hundreds of thousands of people climbed the stairs to the Heinz exhibit, where they tasted food samples and received a pickle charm.

Heinz pickle charm (c. 1893)Original Source: Heinz History Center Museum Collections

Heinz pickle charm, c. 1893

The popular little pickle charm evolved through 10 different shapes and styles into today’s plastic pin. The pickle pin has been called one of the most effective marketing promotions of all time.

Interior of the Heinz factory (c. 1905)Original Source: Detre Library & Archives at the Heinz History Center

Factory Tours

In 1899, H.J. Heinz opened his factory complex in Allegheny City (now Pittsburgh’s North Side neighborhood) to the public.

Trolley sign advertising the Heinz factory tour (c. 1910)Original Source: Heinz History Center Museum Collections

Trolley sign advertising the Heinz factory tour, c. 1910

A revolutionary concept in public relations, visitors were able to see Heinz food products being manufactured, from the can-making department to soup-filling machines to pickle bottling tables.

Each tour ended with complimentary samples of Heinz products and a pickle pin or charm to take home.

Heinz factory tour passOriginal Source: Detre Library & Archives at the Heinz History Center

Heinz factory tour pass

Tens of thousands of people, from school children to foreign tourists, visited the factory each year. The tours demonstrated the Heinz commitment to cleanliness, innovation, and pure foods, and reinforced the brand image.

The company stopped the tours in 1972, when automated production left little for visitors to see.

Credits: Story

The content of this exhibit was adapted from "57 Servings From the Heinz Table," by Emily Ruby. You can learn more in the Heinz exhibit at the Heinz History Center or by purchasing the book online.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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