Geographic Connection to Pennsylvania: Hershey, Dauphin County
Chocolate king Milton Hershey built his world-famous company and established a prosperous town for his workers in his namesake town, Hershey.
Milton S. Hershey was born in 1857. After a brief education, Hershey began working in the candy business. He eventually formed the worldwide known Hershey Chocolate Company. Milton S. Hershey is mainly associated with Pennsylvania through Lancaster and Hershey. Hershey started his career in Lancaster as a candy maker apprentice and then moved to Philadelphia to establish his first candy making business. This gave way to the building of a new chocolate factory in Hershey. Hershey began with nothing, went on to build a town legacy, and created a company known worldwide for its chocolate manufacturing. He died in 1945.
Milton S. Hershey was born on September 13, 1857, in Derry Township, Pennsylvania. Milton Hershey was the only surviving child of Veronica "Fanny" and Henry Hershey. Hershey's mother was a practical influence in his life. She raised Hershey in the discipline of Mennonite faith, which taught him perseverance and success. His father was a dream-chaser and traveled in pursuit of business success. As a result, the family moved constantly throughout Hershey's childhood. These actions interrupted Hershey's schooling and left him with a very limited education, only allowing him to complete up to fourth grade. In 1871, Hershey's mother decided it was time for him to permanently withdraw from school and become a printer's apprentice for a German-English newspaper. However, Hershey disliked that kind of work and was not successful at the job. After two years, Fanny Hershey found another job for her son. Milton Hershey became apprenticed to Joseph Royer, a Lancaster County confectioner, where he would learn to make candy. Hershey discovered that he had a special talent for candy making and after a few years, he decided that it was time to start his own business.
At the age of 19, Milton Hershey established his first candy business in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, just in time for the centennial anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. This was the perfect opportunity to sell his candy to all the people who would be visiting Philadelphia for the celebration. Despite long hours of work and the financial aid of his Uncle Abraham and his mother's family, Hershey had to admit that his first business was a failure. Although slightly discouraged, Hershey followed his father to Denver, Colorado, having heard that the West was a reliable place for a man to make a fortune. This is where Hershey learned the secrets of making caramels with fresh milk. After a few months in Denver, Hershey tried his luck in Chicago, New Orleans, and New York. However, he couldn't seem to pay the bills and each attempt at starting a successful business became a failure. In 1886, Hershey, now 29-years-old, moved back home to Pennsylvania. Soon after arriving back in Lancaster, he formed the Lancaster Caramel Company. Even though this business started off slowly because Hershey did not have the capital, after four years, Hershey became one of the leading manufacturers of caramel in the United States and a rich, famous man.
The turning point in Hershey's career began in 1893, when he attended the World's Columbian Exposition and became fascinated by a German chocolate-making exhibit. This triggered Hershey's new idea of making chocolate himself. He purchased the equipment, shipped it to Lancaster, and began his chocolate endeavor. Once he became an established businessman, Hershey took an important step in his personal life. On May 25, 1898, he married Catherine "Kitty" Sweeney in New York City, the place of their first meeting. This marriage was an accomplishment, as the couple traveled the world together. Although it was disappointing that they never had children, later in Hershey's life this decision would reflect the building of one his most prized possessions. Continuing his business and noticing substantial success from manufacturing chocolate, Hershey decided to sell the Lancaster Caramel Company for $1 million in 1900. From then on, he would only produce chocolates.
As a result of his actions, Hershey built a factory located in the farmland in Derry, Pennsylvania. Then he began building a town where his workers could reside, which included houses, schools, churches, and stores. This town was eventually named Hershey, Pennsylvania. Hershey's hard work turned out just the way he hoped it would. The Hershey Chocolate Company, which produced sweet chocolate and cocoa, was soon bigger that Hershey could have imagined. Instead of making many kinds of candy, Hershey decided to specialize and make one simple milk chocolate bar, known as the "nickel" bar. This candy obtained its name because Hershey would only charge a nickel per chocolate bar in order to make the product affordable for everyone to buy. However, with sales rising, he invented the Hershey Kiss and Hershey's with Almonds, which both turned out to be a great success. This chocolate became the first nationally marketed product of its kind and was later sold in grocery stores, newsstands, and vending machines.
With Hershey's success came generosity and caring. His ambitions were not limited to producing chocolate. Besides building a residential area for his workers, Hershey's town included The Hotel Hershey, a sports arena and stadium, Hershey Park, and the Milton S. Hershey School. The school was formed because Milton and Kitty Hershey wanted to use their money to help orphaned boys and provide them with a place to live that felt like home, as well as the opportunity to teach the boys trades for when they grew up. Since they had no children of their own, the couple was delighted to have the opportunity to help other children. The Hershey Industrial School, now called the Milton Hershey School, opened in 1909. However, in 1918, after Kitty Hershey's death, Milton Hershey decided to give his entire personal fortune of $60 million to the school. Then in 1935, Hershey established The M.S. Hershey Foundation, a charitable organization to provide residents with educational opportunities. After many accomplishments and a successful life, Milton Hershey died at the age of 88 on October 13, 1945, in Hershey, Pennsylvania.
Since his death, Milton Hershey's legacy has changed the world. In 1963, The Milton S. Hershey Medical Center of The Pennsylvania State University was founded. Now today, the town of Hershey continues to be a residential area and a famous attraction. The Hershey Company has continued to hold the status of the nation's leading manufacturer of confectionery products. Hershey Entertainment & Resorts also continues its success. Milton S. Hershey had grown from a penniless boy to a rich man. He changed the candy business by creating worldwide famous chocolate and also impacted the world with his extraordinary generosity. Through building a residential town for the community, a school for orphan boys, a medical center, an amusement park, and mouth-watering candy, Hershey left a legacy that will live on forever.
Burford, Betty. Chocolate by Hershey: A Story About Milton S. Hershey. Minneapolis: Carolrhoda Books, Inc., 1994.
D'Antonio, Michael. Milton S. Hershey's Extraordinary Life of Wealth, Empire, and Utopian Dreams. New York: Simon and Schuster, 2006.