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Chicago World's Fair Heinz Food Company

Updated on September 1, 2011

Henry John Heinz was a very successful American food producer. He was noted for his treating his employees well and for his clean food handling practices. When many factories were putting out adulterated food, Heinz made sure his products were made with fresh, wholesome ingredients under sanitary conditions.

Heinz had been bottling his own horseradish since he was a child and he also sold produce door to door. Everything was grown in the family garden, soon he was given his own land and Heinz was selling to grocery stores. Heinz went to business school, but still continued his fresh produce business. Heinz continued making horseradish and soon started making tomato catsup.

The Heinz company, founded in 1888, was pretty successful. Heinz knew the value of advertising and he had already come up with the advertising slogan “ 57 varieties.” He saw a shoe shop advertising 21 styles and came up with his slogan immediately. The company was already making more than 57 products at the time, but the number stuck.



By the time of the 1893 World Columbian Exposition, (Chicago World’s Fair), the company was in sort of a slump. Not because of anything to do with the company, but an economic depression had just taken hold in the country. The depression would last to 1897. But it didn’t matter, Heinz was sure that having an exhibit at the fair would help his business enormously.

Exhibiting at the fair was wonderful advertising for many products including breakfast cereal, Aunt Jemima Pancake Mix and Cracker Jack


But Hein was having problems. The fair was huge with hundreds of buildings spread along present day Jackson Park. There was so much to see and do it was hard to attract attention. The food manufacturers were placed in the Agricultural Building, which was on a far end of the grounds.

The first floor of the building contained the state Agricultural exhibits and exhibits from foreign countries. California had a very popular exhibit made up of citrus fruits. Pennsylvania had the Liberty Bell. The foreign exhibits included food manufactures such as Lea & Perrin and Fortnum & Mason. The American goods were upstairs on the Galley floor. The products included American Cereal (there was also a separate cereal building), Schlitz Brewery, Knox Gelatin and, of course, Heinz Company.


Heinz had the biggest exhibit of any of the food producers. It was made of hand carved and polished oak and was quite large. The exhibit displayed every variety of sauce, ketchup and other goods that Heinz made. It was considerably more than 57 items. 8 people, mostly pretty girls, ran the exhibit, giving out free samples and extolling the virtues of the company’s products.

The exhibit was elaborate and interesting and hardly anyone saw it. People would walk through the ground floor then go on to other exhibits. Few people were climbing the stairs. But Heinz had an idea; he had small white cards printed up. They looked like a baggage check. The card said that the bearer could present the card at the Heinz exhibit for a free souvenir.

To distribute his cards, he gave them out at his other display in the Horticulture Building. This display was smaller and didn’t give out samples. He also hired some boys to drop them all through the fairgrounds, counting on people being curious and picking them up. And it worked, the Agriculture building exhibit was mobbed. People came, view the exhibit and got their souvenir.


The small item was made of gutta-percha (sort of like rubber) and was in the shape of a green pickle with Heinz stamped on it. The pin was one and a quarter inches long and had a hook on the end, it was meant to be worn on a watch chain. Heinz gave away one million pickle pins before the fair was over

The cards were so successful at attracting visitors that the police had to clear the floor until it could be made stronger. The first floor foreign manufacturers filed a complaint with fair officials against Heinz for unfair business practices. But the other second floor manufacturers were so thrilled with the greater traffic they gave Heinz a dinner and a trophy in thanks.


The pickle giveaway was first developed by the company in 1889, it was a little larger and could be worn like a brooch. Heinz gave away millions and millions of these pins and they were considered one of the most successful advertising giveaways in US history.

Children wore their pickle pins almost every day and many kept the pin for the rest of their lives. Many of the pins were given away at the popular factory tours. The pickle remained a symbol for the company with pickles appearing everywhere being the name Heinz. Some found them appalling, but they were local landmarks for years.




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    • profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago

      They didn't serve things like hot dogs and hamburgers yet, so they would have had more traditional, heavy meals like ham or fried chicken. The California exhibit imported tons of oranges and they were a very popular snack that was not a common food back then. Also Cracker Jacks was a favorite treat at the fair.

    • profile image

      stephanie kennedy 

      7 years ago

      This is awsome but what else types of food did they serve at the fair? im trying to recearch the info for school prodject


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