Born OCTOBER 11, 1844Henry Heinz once stated, “To do a thing uncommonly well brings success.” His Christian faith drove him to do things uncommonly well. He honored God with his success while providing (at one time 57) food products the nation bought.
His parents, German immigrants, settled in Pennsylvania. Henry was born the eldest child of a large family. They needed and grew a sizeable garden. Early in his life, Henry’s parents sent him into the village after each day’s picking to sell that day’s extra produce from a basket. At age ten, Henry peddled vegetables in a wheelbarrow. In his teen years, his parents gave him his own piece of the garden plot. He started using a horse-drawn wagon. The summer before his eighteenth birthday, Henry earned $2,000 from selling what he grew.
A STRONG START
In 1869, Henry went into business with L. Clarence Noble. They established the Heinz & Noble company in Pittsburgh, selling horseradish as their initial product. That same year, Henry married Sarah Young. The Christian couple decided to always put God first. At twenty-five, Henry counted himself a God- blessed man.
Mr. Noble left the company in Henry’s hands in 1872. A few months later, the financial panic of 1873 struck the nation. Banks were shutting their doors. Businesses were closing. God granted Henry a period of great success, but, in 1875, the Heinz company had to file for bankruptcy.
Through their financial struggles, Henry’s family (which eventually grew with four children) remained strong. Their faith in God not only helped them through their financial struggles, but guided them to honor Him every step of the way. Bankruptcy legally freed Henry from his debts, but, as a Christian, he felt responsible to repay everyone he owed. He kept detailed records in a “Moral Obligation Book” until he’d made every payment.
CHARACTER ON DISPLAY
By then, Henry had shared his faith with those around him in other ways. He’d attended Sunday School as a boy. In his twenties he became a teacher. The year after he married and launched Heinz & Noble, Henry became Sunday School superintendent of his local church in Sharpsburg, Pennsylvania. For nearly twenty years, he oversaw the Sunday School of Grace Methodist Protestant Church.
Meanwhile, the year after his first partnership dissolved, Henry formed the family business of F. & J. Heinz Company, with his cousin Frederick and his brother, John. That year, at Philadelphia’s Centennial Exposition, the Heinz company introduced their bottled ketchup. Henry, the family vision-caster, worked with a clear-headed mind for business and a high energy level to match it. In 1888, Frederick and John sold him their shares.At every step of growth and expansion, Henry operated the company according to Christian principles. He treated both employees and customers fairly and honestly. He offered employee benefits that included access to a rooftop garden, a gymnasium, and a library. Heinz employees received free health care. After anyone had worked for him for three years, he provided a life insurance policy. He personally visited or had someone visit any worker who was sick.
While becoming an industry giant, Henry kept people, not profit, his priority. He once offered someone the advice, “Make all you can honestly; save all you can prudently; give all you can wisely.”
SORROW AND JOY
In 1894, Sallie, Henry’s wife of only 25 years, died from double pneumonia. They’d served God together since day one. They’d raised their four children well. What helped ease the pain of his loss was his continued service to God until his days too were finished. After Sallie’s death, Henry’s role as a Sunday School leader grew.
In the year 1895, after having conducted business in Williamsport, Henry dropped in on the Pennsylvania State Sunday School Association. The treasurer reported that the organ-ization had incurred a $600 debt. Businessman John Wanamaker, serving as the Pennsylvania State Sunday School Association president, spoke of the debt shamefully reflecting the lack of a budget.On the spot, Henry Heinz offered a solution. He volunteered to give the first $100 to clear the debt. He was afterwards elected to serve on the executive committee. When John Wanamaker retired as president eleven years later, Henry became his successor.
Henry also came to represent Pennsylvania’s Sunday School Association within the framework of all of North America. After being elected to that executive committee, he held the post for the last seventeen years of his life. His enthusiasm for the promotion of Sunday School extended even further, to international efforts. In 1913, Henry led twenty-eight others on a five-month tour of Korea, Japan, and China.
The company that Henry Heinz started is well known for two things: its ketchup and its enduring logo, “57 varieties.” Henry didn’t hire an ad agency to develop that phrase. He devised it himself. One day while riding a train, he saw a sign for a brand of shoes that claimed to have “21 styles.” He decided to use the idea to advertise his line of condiments which by then had already surpassed fifty-seven varieties.
Henry had a lot to leave behind in his will. In the very opening he states that the most important item in it would be “a confession of my faith in Jesus Christ as my Savior.” Among the money the will dispensed was an amount set aside to honor the person who first taught him Christian principles. In memory of his mother, it went toward a chapel on the campus of Pittsburgh University.
Fifty years after starting Heinz & Noble and more than half a century after teach-ing his first Sunday School class, Henry died in 1919 from pneumonia. A fellow business leader gave Him what is probably the highest tribute he could receive. He said, “He was a Christian man whose life reflected, as far as a human being could, the teachings of The Sermon on the Mount.”
LET ME KNOW: How has Henry’s story informed, encouraged, or otherwise helped you? I welcome your comments.
- Masters, Peter. Men of Purpose. London, UK: Wakeman, 1973.
- Redmond, George F. Financial Giants of America (Vol II). Boston, MA: The Stratford Company, 1922. http://books.google.com/books?id=V7QSAQAAMAAJ&pg =PA286#v =onepage&q&f=false.
- The Story of the Sunday School Life of Henry J. Heinz. Pittsburgh, PA, 1920. http://archive.org/stream/storyofsundaysch00pitt#page/n9/mode/2up.
Biographies of Henry Heinz begin on this page-http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb _sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=henry+heinz+biography.