Milton Hershey: Candy, nurture of workers, boys school

Jo Fredell Higgins
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Milton Hershey

Milton Hershey was born September 13, 1857 to Henry and Veronica Hershey. He grew up speaking Pennsylvania Dutch on his family farm. There he learned the value of hard work and perseverance. His ancestors were Swiss and German who settled in Pennsylvania in the early 1700s. He left school after the fourth grade because his mother wanted him to learn the confectioner trade. He began an apprenticeship to a confectioner in 1873 at a candy shop in Philadelphia.
After seeing chocolate-making machines for the first time at the 1893 World’s Colombian Exposition in Chicago, Hershey sold his caramel company for $1 Million. That was equal to $29 Million today. He said “Caramels are just a fad, but chocolate is a permanent thing.” In 1903 he began construction of a chocolate plant in his hometown of Derry Church, Pennsylvania. The first Hershey bar was produced in 1900.
By 1907 Hershey introduced a conical-shaped chocolate that he named the Hershey’s Kiss. Today, 80 Million of the candies are produced each day. Mr. Goodbar began in 1925, and Hershey’s Syrup in 1926.
Shortly after World War II, Bruce Murrie, son of long-time Hershey’s president, William F.R. Murrie, joined with Forrest Mars to create a hard sugar-coated chocolate called M&M’s for Mars and Murrie. Murrie had 20% interest which used Hershey chocolate during the rationing era of WWII.
May 25, 1898 Hershey married Catherine Sweeney, an Irish-American Catholic girl from Jamestown, N.Y.. They had met at a candy shop in New York when he was delivering one of his caramel orders. She brought gaiety, wit, and warmth into his life. They shared a very happy life together.
Hershey was a forward-looking entrepreneur who believed that providing better living conditions for the workers resulted in better workers. He conceived of building a community to support and nurture his workers. Developing the community became a life-long passion for him.
Hershey founded the Hershey Industrial School in 1909 for white orphaned boys. Hershey donated his considerable wealth of $60 Million to the boarding school upon Catherine Hershey’s death in 1915. The Hershey Trust Company is the largest shareholder and beneficiary to the school. The school has more than $12 Billion in assets. A home-like setting for 2,000 children in financial need teaches programs that will build skills necessary to support themselves during their lives.
Hershey could not have children of his own so he created the school in Hershey, Pa.. Much of the designs resemble Hershey chocolate products including the Hershey Kisses street lights. He prohibited The Hershey Company from using the school as an advertisement or marketing strategy. The Hershey Industrial School was renamed The Milton Hershey School in 1951. The Hershey estate is valued at $10 Billion today.
Many sales and acquisitions have been acquired over the years, including the Mauna Loa Macadamia Nut Corp from the Shansby Group. In 2005 Hershey acquired Joseph Schmidt Confections from the San Francisco chocolatier and in 2006 Hershey acquired the Dagoba Organic Chocolate, a boutique chocolate-maker from Oregon. In 2016 Hershey acquired barkTHINS, a New York based chocolate snack foods company for $290 Million. The product was expected to generate about $75 Million that year.
Sometimes a simple Hershey bar is all that is needed and the taste can be almost equal that of more expensive chocolates. Having used most of the Hershey products, it has become evident that the product is superior in quality and taste. Milton S. Hershey died October 13, 1945 at age 88 of pneumonia. He rests at the Hershey Memorial, Hershey Cemetery, in Dauphin County Pennsylvania.

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