Heinz: First Products and an Innovative Factory

The following post is an excerpt from the new book, 57 Servings From the Heinz Table, by History Center curator Emily Ruby. You can purchase the book from our museum shop or online.

Evaporated horseradish, catalog illustration, 1895.
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. From the H.J. Heinz Company Records, Detre Library & Archives at the History Center.

First Product

The very first Heinz product, bottled horseradish, saved homemakers from a thankless but necessary task. The preparation of horseradish as a condiment required long and tedious grating. Heinz believed, from his early experiences, that women would gladly skip the process of grating their own horseradish if they could buy a trusted, packaged product. His hunch proved correct, and the product sold well. He packaged his horseradish in aqua or clear glass so customers could plainly see the quality of the product inside.

Heinz, Noble & Company horseradish jar with spoon, c. 1872.
Heinz, Noble & Company horseradish jar with spoon, c. 1872. From the Heinz History Center collections, gift of the H.J. Heinz Company.

Innovative Factory

By 1898, Heinz’s factory had become the largest food processing facility in the world, built of the finest brick and beautified with stained glass windows. A marvel to visitors, the factory featured all the latest technologies, including one of the first electric ventilation systems in Pittsburgh. Designed to be completely fire resistant, an electric fireproofing system closed doors and sounded fire alarms. Heinz adopted a continuous flow system and assembly line techniques years before industrialists such as Henry Ford created a revolutionary blend of human labor and automation. Many of the first visitors to the site were engineers who traveled from around the world to see Heinz’s plant.

Baked beans department, 1907.
Baked beans department, 1907. From the H.J. Heinz Company Photographs, Detre Library & Archives at the History Center.
Heinz factory, featured in 1895 catalog.
Heinz factory, featured in 1895 catalog. From the H.J. Heinz Company Records, Detre Library & Archives at the History Center.
Employees fill bottles in the ketchup bottling department, 1904.
Employees fill bottles in the ketchup bottling department, 1904. From the H.J. Heinz Company Photographs, Detre Library & Archives at the History Center.

Emily Ruby is a curator at the Heinz History Center, where she oversaw research and interpretation for the new Heinz exhibit. She is the author of the new book, 57 Servings From the Heinz Table, available now.

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