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Henry J. Heinz was an industrial pioneer in the food processing business during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. He founded the H. J. Heinz Company in Pennsylvania.

In the 19th century, most Americans grew and preserved their own food. Harvest time found families busily preserving the food that would feed them until the next growing season. Fruits and vegetables were cooked in mixtures of sugar or salt and vinegar, placed in clean airtight jars, and placed in boiling water to kill bacteria. It was time-consuming and labor-intensive work.

Henry J. Heinz helped his mother with their home preserves. One product that Henry loved was horseradish. He helped her grind, cook, and seal the sauce. Eyes watered and sinuses cleared as Henry ground the horseradish, its pungent aroma inescapable. Henry surmised it was a task that any family would avoid if they could purchase the sauce already packaged. He went about preparing the sauce, carefully packaging it in clear glass jars, and selling it to his neighbors. The sauce was an instant success. Heinz recognized the quality of his product and increased production. He eventually expanded the product line to include pickles, sauerkraut, and vinegar.

The business quickly grew beyond his mother's kitchen and beyond what he could do himself. In 1866, he teamed with L. Clarence Noble, and eventually moved the operation from Sharpsburg to Pittsburgh in 1872.

The national banking crisis of the 1870"s forced the company into bankruptcy. Heinz quickly rebounded in 1875 by introducing "tomato ketchup", along with the old product line. The company prospered and brought new products that eventually totaled its famous "57 varieties." Heinz initiated unique quality control systems in the production process and pursued innovative advertising strategies to introduce his products around the world. By the time he died in 1919, Heinz was president of one of the world's leading food processing companies.
(Related information about H. J. Heinz can be found in the markerH. J. Heinz "Behind the Marker" story.

Web Sites

Heinz Company History

History of H. J Heinz and the H. J. Heinz Company, including resources for older students.

National Council on Economic Education

An economic education site with resources to promote economic literacy among students and teachers.

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