The Sweet History of Milton S. Hershey


The Hershey Company has a very unique history. Not only did the founder of the company build a multi-million dollar corporation, he also had a town named after him.

Milton S. Hershey was born in rural Pennsylvania in 1857. As a teenager, he worked as an apprentice for a candy shop in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. At the young age of 19, he opened his own candy store, but it failed only six years later.

Soon afterwards, he relocated to Denver, Colorado to learn how to make caramels. Within the same year, he moved to New York and opened yet another candy shop, but it failed as well. Almost bankrupt, Milton moved back to Lancaster in 1890 and opened what would become a very profitable candy store, the Lancaster Caramel Company. It didn’t take long for the company to grow and begin shipping caramels all over the world. In fact, the company employed nearly 1,400 people.

The Beginning of Hershey’s Chocolates

In 1893, Mr. Hershey attended the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago and learned about the machinery needed to manufacture chocolate. He purchased some of the equipment and began to cover the caramels in chocolate. By 1894, he had figured out the formula for chocolate that had been kept a secret by Swiss candy makers; thus, the Hershey’s candy bar was born. He sold Lancaster Caramel Company for one million dollars in 1900, which was staggering amount of money at the time.

Milton devoted all of his time to the art of making chocolate. He quickly realized he needed a site to build a factory on, and found it in the Derry Township of Pennsylvania. He wanted a site that was close to the large port cities to make it easier to get the needed sugar and cocoa beans to make his renowned chocolate. This was just a short walk from where he was born. He began building his factory in 1903.

Taking Care of Employees

Mr. Hershey had learned many things over the years, and although he was not an educated man by traditional standards, he had become a shrewd business man. He believed that if his workers were treated fairly and given a comfortable environment in which to live, they would work harder and stay with the company [Biography – Milton Hershey: The Chocolate King starring Jack Perkins, A&E Home Video, December 1996].

With this in mind, Mr. Hershey built a model community for his workers, which included housing, schools, a park, churches, and a trolley system. This community was built to provide a stable welfare for his workers, not to exploit the residents as many companies did. In 1906, this community was named Hershey. As the years went by, Milton also added a department store, an amusement park, and several more schools. Milton made it possible for the residents of Hershey to have the finest in schools for their children to attend.

Helping the Community

In 1909, in order to help others, Milton and his wife opened the Hershey Industrial School, which was for orphaned boys. Without any fanfare, Milton placed almost all of his money into the Hershey Trust, which was to be held specifically for the Hershey Industrial School. Today, the school is now open to girls as well [Chocolate by Hershey: A Story About Milton S. Hershey by Betty Burford, Carolrhoda Books, November 1994].

Mr. Hershey passed away in 1945, but his legacy is still alive today. Hershey, Pennsylvania is a popular tourist site, and has some of the best schools found on the East Coast. The Hershey Chocolate Corporation is now known as the Hershey Foods Corporation, and is one of the largest businesses in the world today.