IS IT POSSIBLE TO MOVE FROM ONE SOCIAL CLASS TO ANOTHER IN SOCIETY AND IMPROVE ONE’S SOCIAL STANDING?
Western Pennsylvania has had probably more than its fair share of industrial tycoons who started out
poor and made their fortunes in many different ways, especially during the time of America’s Industrial
Revolution. There were many local giants of industry in the late 19th and early 20th centuries that I believe
left indelible impressions on our Western Pennsylvania area, the United States of America, and the world
community. In this paper I will discuss how one of these titans of the Industrial Revolution, Henry John
Heinz, made his wealth, rose from poor to upper class in society, and was able to give something back to
less fortunate people through his many philanthropic endeavors. The many captains of industry during this time
period made their fortunes differently, had their own special philosophies or ideas of the work ethic and handling
their newly found wealth, responded quite differently to their employees’ wishes and demands, and handled their
money creatively when it particularly came to charitable causes. H.J. Heinz was a unique man for his time.
Henry John Heinz was born on October 11, 1844 to Anna Margaretha Schmitt and John Henry
Heinz. Both of Heinz’s parents had recently immigrated to the United States from Germany and
settled in the then Birmingham district of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He was the oldest of their nine children
and they nicknamed him Harry. Upon his birth, his mother determined that Harry would grow up to become
a Lutheran minister, as they were devoutly religious people. At the age of five, Harry with his parents and
two younger brothers, John and Peter, moved from Birmingham to the village of Sharpsburg, the second
oldest borough of Allegheny County, and about six miles up the Allegheny Valley.
It was in Sharpsburg that “… John Heinz bought or built a kiln and set himself up in the brickmaking
business and later as a brick contractor and builder.” (Alberts,3) In 1854, he built the family a brick home on
Main Street in Sharpsburg with his own hands and his own homemade bricks and maintained the family
business on about four acres of land.
The Heinz children were expected by their parents to begin working in the family’s garden by the
age of eight. So Harry started working for his parents in the garden at age eight and also in his father’s
brickyard. For awhile he even worked after school and during the summer months on a neighbor’s
farm picking potatoes and he was paid 25 cents a day and received his meals for his labor. Harry
attended a Lutheran church school in Etna, about one and a half miles down the river toward Pittsburgh.
He walked to and from school each day and worked before and after school hours.
John and Anna Heinz had to be firm disciplinarians with their children, four sons and four
daughters. One of their nine children, a daughter, had died in 1858 at the age of one year. Harry, much later
as an adult would write that his father John was ‘…a giant in strength and endurance and a very
indulgent father. Anna Heinz was a loving but not an indulgent mother.” (Alberts,3) Harry, the oldest, appeared
to get along better with his mother and seemed to have many of her personal qualities, but she was not a
mother who played favorites with her children. It was from his mother that Harry Heinz learned many of
the Biblical sayings he would later utilize in his business life. Anna Heinz’s favorite Bible sayings that
she repeated over and over again to her children were “ Do all the good you can, do not live for yourself.
Do not aim to be rich, for riches never come that way. Always remember to place yourself in the
other person’s shoes and Remember that the bee goes to the same flower for its honey where the...
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