The Good Provider


Heinz was now becoming an elder statesman of his industry. He was active in pursuit of such Pittsburgh goals as flood control and smoke abatement (most of which were realized in the “Pittsburgh Renaissance” that began in 1946) and in charitable activities. He was chairman of the executive committee of Kansas City University and president of the World Sunday School Association. He had bought, four years before his wife’s death in 1894, a baronial mansion in Pittsburgh’s East End, and there he lived with a staff of servants, various relatives, and assorted visiting grandchildren (one of whom, Henry J. Heinz II , is now chairman of the company). He had a conservatory and fruit house (open to the public) and a private museum (open to schoolchildren). He built a settlement house for children in memory of his wife. He travelled to Europe every year accompanied by a valet and a secretary, visited Egypt, Palestine, Mexico, and Bermuda (he met and spent some time with Mark Twain on one of his voyages), and in 1913 took twenty-nine World Sunday School officials on a trip around the world.

Heinz turned much of the operation of the business over to his son Howard (Yale, 1900) and then bombarded him with commanding directives and affectionate reproaches: “I cannot find a single advertisement in the magazines. Are you asleep? Read this to the advertising department … careful NOT TO OVERDO IT AT BOARD MEETINGS . Give your partners a chance to say something, and let the majority decide. … Our opportunity in California is now. We ought to advertise. … You must get outside away from the desk. I wish you would put some competent man to take your place at the desk, and you help to organize other departments. You know you enjoy better health not at the desk, you accomplish more, the results are greater away from the desk, and yet you are determined to stay at the desk. … If I love you I must speak the truth and say the things that will help you.”

In sad fact Henry Heinz was experiencing at last an inevitable ailment: he was becoming a superannuated man. His beloved horses had been replaced by Electromobiles and Columbia Electrics, and those were being replaced by gasoline-driven trucks. Howard Heinz was quietly bringing in college-bred chemists to apply scientific methods to the process lines and to do research. One of them, the late Herbert N. Riley, first head of quality control and a vice president, recalled: “In those days the moon was considered as having much to do with the success of food processing. … Every operation was secret and the man who possessed the secret guarded it jealously. … For instance, pickles. It seemed that only men with certain God-given knowledge could successfully salt cucumbers into pickles. They were men of some standing who wore top hats and cutaway coats and of whom the management stood somewhat in awe. The pickle salter was a fellow called Graves. He wouldn’t let anyone come into the place. I had to get a special permission or a special order even to let me in to see what was going on. His great thing was to put a finger into the pickle tanks, take it out with a great sweep, shove it into his mouth, suck it, and say, ‘Ah, yes, two bushels of salt in there , and three bushels of salt in here .’


“And spaghetti. I can still see the colorful Italian gentleman in charge of our spaghetti department, specially brought over from Italy, sticking his hand out the window to ‘feel’ the air to determine just how to adjust his drying process. I got a hygrometer for $400 and that was the end of the spaghetti expert.”

Howard Heinz, having introduced the new scientific era to the company’s operations, took a leave of absence at the end of World War I to become Herbert Hoover’s food commissioner in the Balkans. While he was away, on May 14, 1919, his father died of pneumonia. The Founder, as he has been called ever since, left an estate of four million dollars and many charitable bequests to friends, relatives, employees, and institutions. At his death the company he had started fifty years earlier had 6,500 employees, 100,000 acres in crops, 25 branch factories, 85 salting stations, 87 raw-produce stations, and 55 branch offices and warehouses. It owned a seed farm, factories for the manufacture of bottles, boxes, and cans, and 258 railroad cars. (By 1971 Heinz had companies in many parts of the world, and its sales have exceeded a billion dollars for the first time in its history.)

In recent years, marketing not 57 but over 1,200 “varieties” of food products as it moves into its second century, the Heinz Company has embraced such developments as prepackaged meat, frozen foods, freeze-dried foods, asceptic filling of dairy custard, flash sterilization, computer-controlled processing lines, and mechanical harvesting of fruits and vegetables. Some of these innovations surely would have seemed alien to H. J. Heinz; but just as surely he would be gratified to know that one of his favorite mottoes is still highly regarded by his successors: “Luck may help a man over a ditch—if he jumps well.”

THE EMPIRE OF HEINZ 57 Ways to Keep the Workers Happy