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Milton Snavely Hershey

Born: September 13, 1857
Place: Dauphin County, Pennsylvania
Died: October 13, 1945
Place: Hershey, Pennsylvania

Milton Snavely Hershey Milton Snavely Hershey was born on September 13, 1857, in rural Dauphin County in Pennsylvania, near the present-day towns of Hockersville and Hershey. His family, of German and Swiss heritage, were members of Pennsylvania's Mennonite community. Being a youngster in rural Pennsylvania was not easy. There was work to be done. Like many rural young people of the time, Milton was expected to help out on the family farm, and he learned early on of the value of hard work and perseverance. His schooling was limited. He attended several one room school houses as a youngster, but his formal education ended before he entered the fifth grade when his father decided that he should become an apprentice in the printing trade. His father helped him acquire an apprenticeship with a Lancaster printer, but Milton Hershey had little interest in the trade. So he left the printer apprenticeship and soon found himself working for a Lancaster confectioner. Candy and confections were much more agreeable to young Hershey than paper and ink.

In 1876, Milton Hershey had acquired some savings and enough knowledge of the candy business to try to make it on his own. Not yet 20 years old, he established his own candy making business in Philadelphia as "M.S. Hershey, Wholesale and Retail Confectioner." He kept the business going for six years, but sold it in 1882. From Philadelphia, he traveled to Denver, Colorado, where he was hired by a local candy maker. Here Hershey learned the art of making fine caramel. Hershey moved on from Denver and tried to establish himself in other cities, including Chicago and New York. But he eventually returned to Lancaster, Pennsylvania in 1883 and set up a new candy manufacturing business which specialized in producing caramel. The Lancaster Caramel Company was a success. Hershey concentrated on making fine caramels using fresh ingredients, and his efforts paid off. In a few years the Lancaster Caramel Company had become widely known as a producer of high quality candy.

In 1893, like millions of Americans, Milton Hershey attended the World's Fair in Chicago. Officially known as The World's Columbian Exposition, the fair featured exhibitors from across the country and around the world. One of these exhibitors was a German manufacturer of chocolate-making machinery, and Hershey was so impressed that he purchased the machinery for his Lancaster plant. He created the Hershey Chocolate Company in 1894 as an arm of the Lancaster Caramel Company. Soon his factories were producing chocolates, caramels, chocolate-covered caramel products, sweet chocolate, baking chocolate, and breakfast cocoas. In 1900 he sold the caramel portion of the business for one million dollars. Then, in 1903, he purchased 1,200 acres of land near his birthplace. With an abundant supply of fresh milk from local dairy farms, Hershey focused on mass-producing his milk chocolate products. The Hershey Chocolate Company thrived, and so did the community surrounding the bustling chocolate company. Hershey believed that his company and the community were intertwined, and that he had a responsibility to his employees and the community. As the company prospered, Milton Hershey directed the development of an equally prosperous company town. His vision was to create a model town, with nice homes, parks, transportation, and recreational facilities. He succeeded in his efforts, and the result was the town named Hershey, which today promotes itself as the "sweetest place on earth."

Milton Hershey's chocolate products became so widely distributed that the name Hershey became synonymous with chocolate. With the Hershey Chocolate Company's success, Milton Hershey acquired enormous wealth, and this allowed him to devote much of his life to philanthropy. He and his wife opened the Hershey Industrial School for orphan boys in 1909. Although his wife died several years later, Hershey continued to oversee the success of the school, the town, and his business. Even during the Great Depression, Hershey kept the business operating and he continued to employ the town's residents in the development of the town, including the construction of community buildings and a sports arena, now known as the Hersheypark Arena. He also continued to improve the school, known today as the Milton S. Hershey School. In 1918 he endowed the school with a fortune of Hershey Chocolate Company stock. Today the 10,000 acre school provides for financially needy boys and girls. Hershey established various other trusts and foundations that continue to be extensions of his goodwill. Milton S. Hershey practiced his philanthropy until his death in 1945.

Several good books on Milton Hershey are available through our association with For young readers, (suggested age 4 to 8 years old) you can purchase Chocolate by Hershey : A Story About Milton S. Hershey (A Carolrhoda Creative Minds Book). This book is a basic biography written for young readers that shows how Hershey pursued his quest to become a successful candymaker, even after he encountered difficulties and setbacks. Click here to purchase this fine book for the younger set.

For the 9 to 12 year old reader, consider Milton Hershey : Chocolate King, Town Builder (Community Builders). This biography of Milton Hershey presents a very informative description of Hershey's life and his dedication to quality, perseverance, and charitable endeavors. Click here to order this interesting biography of Milton Hershey.

For the high school to adult reader, The Emperors of Chocolate : Inside the Secret World of Hershey and Mars, by Joel Glenn Brenner, covers the history of both the Hershey and the Mars candy companies. It is a riveting exploration of two businessmen with different objectives, portraying Forrest Mars as a businessman whose vision was conquest and domination, and Milton Hershey as a businessman whose vision was not only success, but also philanthropy. Click here to purchase this depiction of two very different companies and contrasting personalities.


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