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Hershey, Milton - Overview, Personal Life, Career Details, Social and Economic Impact, Chronology: Milton Hershey

chocolate school company business

Hershey Foods Corporation


Although Milton S. Hershey never attended school beyond the fourth grade, he founded what was in 1904 the world’s largest single entity engaged solely in the manufacture of chocolate and cocoa—Hershey Chocolate Company. He literally built the town of Hershey, PA, investing much of his fortune in the town and founding two schools in the community. Today the Hershey Company is still an active manufacturer of chocolate bars and other food products.

Personal Life

Milton Snavely Hershey was born on September 13, 1857, to Henry H. Hershey, an itinerant speculator, and Fannie B. (Snavely) Hershey. His ancestors were Swiss and German and had settled in Pennsylvania in the early 1700s. He began his life in his grandfather’s farmhouse near Derry Church, Pennsylvania. and eventually returned to his birthplace and built the town of Hershey. Due to his father’s fairly unsuccessful career, the family moved often, and within eight years Hershey had attended seven different schools. He dropped out of school after the fourth grade.

At the age of 14, Hershey took his first job as a printer’s devil for a newspaper in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. He lost the job within a year and then became an apprentice to a confectioner in Lancaster in what would later become his life’s work.

Hershey married Catherine Sweeney, a New York City shop girl, in 1898. The couple was childless, but in 1909 they decided to house and educate four orphan boys. This venture marked the beginning of the first school that Hershey would establish.

Career Details

After four years of learning the confectioner’s trade, Hershey went into business for himself in Philadelphia. Beginning in 1876, Hershey made and sold candy, but the business did not pay, and he gave it up in 1882.

Hershey worked for a Denver, Colorado caramel company for a while. He then ran a candy store with his father, but that business eventually collapsed. He made another attempt at the candy business in New York City, a venture that failed in 1886. Hershey finally found his niche when he established the Lancaster Caramel Company in Lancaster in 1888. He used a new method he had learned in Denver of making caramels with fresh milk. An importer from England was impressed with the candy and placed a large order. From there, Hershey’s business grew rapidly. Within three years, Hershey became one of the wealthiest men in Lancaster. He continued his manufacture of caramel candy, which he concocted himself, throughout the 1890s, and enjoyed considerable success.

In 1893, Hershey was so fascinated by the German chocolate-making machinery demonstrated at the Chicago International Exhibit that he bought his own equipment. He began experimenting with making his own chocolate, and in 1894 Hershey Chocolate Company became a subsidiary of his caramel business. He expanded this component of his business, and in 1900 decided to concentrate on the production of chocolate. He sold his caramel business to his chief rival, the American Caramel Company, for $1 million. When he sold the company, he retained the chocolate making equipment, and set out to mass produce chocolate to satisfy what he believed to be an expanding market.

With the expansion of his business, Hershey found he needed more space. He started construction on a new plant in Dauphin County, Pennsylvania, on his homestead of 500 acres. The business eventually expanded into 12,000 acres, and by the time of his death Hershey’s company was using 400,000 quarts of milk a day in the manufacture of milk chocolate. This required the milk supply from 30,000 cows a day. In addition, almonds were grown in California for use in the milk chocolate almond bars that had become so popular. The company had become the world’s largest manufacturer of chocolate. Profits had gone from $622,000 in 1901 to $55 million in 1945. Part of Hershey’s success was due to his perfection of the milk chocolate and almond milk chocolate bar, which he first sold for a nickel each. He did not advertise his product; his philosophy was “quality is the best advertising.” The Hershey Chocolate Company was incorporated in 1941, with Hershey as the main stockholder and chairman of the board.

In 1942, Hershey resigned as the president of the Hershey Corporation, but he remained chairman of the board until near the end of his life. Before his death in 1945, Hershey saw the production of a variety of chocolate products that are still produced today, including Hershey’s Kisses, Mr. Goodbars, Hershey’s Syrup, and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. Hershey began a company that has provided us with products that have become part of American traditions.

Social and Economic Impact

A year after Hershey built the new plant in Pennsylvania, 1500 were in his employ. By the time of his death, this number had increased to 3800. In addition to the employment opportunities offered by his plant, Hershey had an immeasurable impact on the development of the town of Hershey and the surrounding community. With his own money, Hershey built schools, churches, stores, a bank, an amusement park, a zoo, a football field, an inn, golf courses, and a dancing pavilion. He even developed a trolley-system to bring in workers from neighboring towns. In 1930, to help provide employment during the Depression, Hershey initiated a long-range project to build a large community building, a hotel, an office building, a sports arena, a new school, and a 17,000-seat football stadium. Childless himself, Hershey became, in many ways, father to the community of Hershey. Because the town was not incorporated, Hershey maintained control and set rules that he believed would benefit the community. For example, he insisted that each company store earn only a moderate profit, and he rented houses to the employees at low rates.

Hershey also had a great effect on education, which has carried over into the present time. In 1909, Hershey established the Hershey Industrial School for Boys, which was a school for orphaned boys between the ages of four and eighteen. Hershey’s goal of the school was to avoid an institutional atmosphere, and to give the boys a personal environment in which they could gain confidence. In 1918, Hershey donated $60 million as a trust fund for maintenance of the school. Later, in 1938, Hershey founded another school, the Hershey Junior College for girls and boys. His large gift in 1918 to the trade school left it in a very good financial position. In 1963, the school designated 50 million dollars to build the Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, the medical school for Pennsylvania State University. Upon his death, Hershey left the bulk of his stock to the Milton Hershey School Trust, which is still the major stockholder in Hershey Foods.

Chronology: Milton Hershey

1857: Born.

1876: Started his own candy-making business.

1888: Started Lancaster Caramel Company.

1893: Established Hershey Chocolate Company.

1900: Sold caramel business and started to concentrate on the manufacture of chocolate.

1903: Constructed new plant in what would become Hershey, PA.

1909: Founded Hershey Industrial School for Boys.

1938: Opened tuition-free Hershey Junior College.

1945: Died.

Milton S. Hershey’s philanthropic efforts have had long-lasting effects that continue to reach people today. The Hershey Industrial School is now called the Milton Hershey school and still provides education for many children. The Hershey company has retained his philosophy of generosity. The company offers educational materials to teachers and funds the Hershey Youth Program, sponsoring youth involvement in athletics. In 1995, 50 years after his death, the U.S. Postal Service put Hershey on a stamp as part of their Great Americans series. The Postmaster General at that time commented, “It is a fitting tribute to a man whose generosity and caring have left such a lasting mark on our world.”


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