“Give them quality. That’s the best kind of advertising in the world.”
Milton Snavely Hershey (September 13, 1857 – October 13, 1945) was an American confectioner, philanthropist, and founder of The Hershey Chocolate Company and the “company town” of Hershey, Pennsylvania.
Milton S. Hershey was born on September 13, 1857 to Henry and Veronica “Fanny” Snavely Hershey. His family were members of Pennsylvania’s Mennonite community. His ancestors were Swiss and German and had settled in Pennsylvania in the early 1700s. He grew up speaking Pennsylvania Dutch. 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. Henry Hershey rarely stayed anywhere very long, and was prone to leaving his wife and child for long periods. Because of this, Hershey had a very limited education with no schooling after 4th grade.
In 1871, Milton Hershey left school for good and was apprenticed to a local printer who published a German-English newspaper. But he didn’t like that kind of work, and the arrangement ended quickly. His mother arranged for the 14-year-old Hershey to be apprenticed to a Lancaster County confectioner named Joseph Royer. Over the next four years, Hershey learned the craft of creating confections. In 1876, He moved to Philadelphia to start his first confectionery business, in time for the Centennial Exposition of 1876. Backed financially by his mother’s family, the business survived for six years, before going bankrupt in 1882.
Milton then traveled to Denver, and finding work at a local confectioners, learned how to make caramels using fresh milk. He then went to New Orleans and Chicago looking for opportunities, before settling in New York City in 1883 and training at Huyler’s. He started his second business which, while initially successful, lasted only 3 years and closed in 1886.
Lancaster Caramel Company
Returning to Lancaster in 1886, Hershey established the Lancaster Caramel Company, which quickly became an outstanding success. Utilizing a caramel recipe he had obtained during his previous travels, his company prospered. It was this business that established him as a candy maker, and set the stage for future accomplishments.
In 1898, the forty years old Hershey married Catherine “Kitty” Sweeney, an Irish-American Catholic girl from Jamestown, New York. She brought gaiety, wit, and warmth into his life. By all reports their life together was very happy.
The Hershey Chocolate Company
Using the proceeds from the 1900 sale of the Lancaster Caramel Company, Hershey initially acquired farm land roughly 30 miles northwest of Lancaster, near his birthplace of Derry Church. There, he could obtain the large supplies of fresh milk needed to perfect and produce fine milk chocolate. Excited by the potential of milk chocolate, which at that time was a luxury product, Hershey was determined to develop a formula for milk chocolate and market and sell it to the American public. Through trial and error, he created his own formula for milk chocolate. The first Hershey bar was produced in 1900. Hershey’s Kisses were developed in 1907, and the Hershey’s Bar with almonds was introduced in 1908.
On March 2, 1903, he began construction on what was to become the world’s largest chocolate manufacturing company, only he didn’t know that it would become a large company. The facility, completed in 1905, was designed to manufacture chocolate using the latest mass production techniques. Hershey’s milk chocolate quickly became the first nationally marketed product of its kind.
The factory was in the center of a dairy farmland, but with Hershey’s support, houses, businesses, churches, and a transportation infrastructure accreted around the plant. Because the land was surrounded by dairy farms, Hershey was able to use fresh milk to mass-produce quality milk chocolate. Hershey continued to experiment and perfect the process of making milk chocolate using the techniques he had first learned for adding milk to make caramels when he had moved to Colorado.
On May 25, 1898, Hershey married Catherine “Kitty” Sweeney. Since the couple could not have children, they decided to help others, establishing the Hershey Industrial School with a Deed of Trust in 1909. Catherine died of Tuberculosis in 1915 and Hershey never remarried. In 1918, Hershey transferred the majority of his assets, including control of the company, to the Milton Hershey School Trust fund, to benefit the Industrial School. The trust fund has a majority of voting shares in The Hershey Company, allowing it to keep control of the company. In 1951, the school was renamed the Milton Hershey School. The Milton Hershey School Trust also has 100% control of Hershey Entertainment and Resorts Company, which owns the Hotel Hershey and Hersheypark, among other properties. He took great pride in the growth of the school, the town, and his business. He placed the quality of his product and the well-being of his workers ahead of profits.
- He was part of a forward-looking group of entrepreneurs in this country and abroad who believed that providing better living conditions for their workers resulted in better workers…Milton Hershey conceived of building a community that would support and nurture his workers. Developing the community became a lifelong passion for him.
In 1935, Hershey established the M.S. Hershey Foundation, a private charitable foundation that provides educational and cultural opportunities for Hershey residents. The foundation supplies funding for three entities: the Hershey Museum and Hershey Gardens, the Hershey Theatre and the Hershey Community Archives.
The founding of the Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center occurred when the board of the trust went to the Dauphin County Orphans Court with the cy-près doctrine (cy près is a French phrase meaning “As close as possible”). It was a gift from the Milton Hershey School Trust to the people of Pennsylvania, with an initial endowment of $50 million and only one restriction—the hospital had to be built in Hershey. The hospital is a teaching hospital with an annual budget exceeding the initial construction cost.