I had his first kiss when I was young. I immediately fell in love, hard. When I get a taste of his sweet kisses, I never want to stop. Sometimes, I’ll taste three or four of his kisses all at once. They always leave me wanting more.
Today is the birthday of Milton Hershey. Thank you Mr. Hershey, for the kisses, the chocolate bars, and living a very interesting life. Learning about you was like eating your chocolate, I couldn’t stop.
Milton Hershey was born on September 13, 1857 in rural Pennsylvania. As a little boy he listened to the cannon fire of the battle of Gettysburg. He grew up in a poor family, in which his dad was always trying new ventures and failing. Milton dropped out of school at age 14, and worked as an apprentice for several different candy makers. He tried to start his own business twice, failing both times and having to file for bankruptcy twice.
He didn’t give up.
In 1886, Hershey started the Lancaster Caramel Company. For months the company scuffled, but an English importer tasted the caramel and placed a huge order. The company quickly turned into a tremendous success. At the 1893 world’s fair, he became fascinated with chocolate. He later sold Lancaster Caramels to start focusing on chocolate, and Hershey Chocolate Company was born.
Hershey mastered mass production of the bars, and then introduced the kisses in 1907. His company was a wild success, and he became one of the richest men in the world. What separates Hershey from other successful business leaders of the time was his ethics. He treated his employees very well. When he started a new town for his factory, he built housing, parks, schools, and even a trolly system for his employees. During the Great Depression, while many companies were laying off people, Hershey hired 600 more. It was kind of like his own “New Deal” to help out those in need, as he hired them to do projects to improve the city of Hershey and its infrastructure.
In addition to his innovation, hard work, and perseverance, Milton Hershey was also aided by some good luck. He had purchased tickets to travel on the ill fated Titanic set to leave on April 6, 1912. He and his wife had spent the previous winter in Nice, France and planned on coming home in the early spring. He decided he needed another day to attend to business matters, so he instead bought a ticket on a German ship which left on April 7.
Photo Credit: Hershey Museum
Milton and his wife Catherine were unable to have children, so he had no heirs to his fortune. Catherine was an extremely caring and generous person. She guided Milton to become one of the most generous men in American history. Despite making a fortune, he died with very little money in his bank account. His special cause was orphans. He built the Milton Hershey school to take in children from the worst of circumstances and set them forward on the right path. In 1918 when his company was valued at over 60 million dollars, he secretly transferred all of his stock to his school. About 1800 troubled kids per year still benefit from that decision.
Photo credit: Philly.com
Milton Hershey loved his country, and was there for it when it came time for war. In 1937, the United States Government approached Hershey to design a special chocolate bar for the soldiers. It had to be light, able to withstand high temperatures, high in energy, and not too tasty. Hershey thought it was the first time in the history of candy making to receive an order to produce treats that didn’t taste too good. Because of how it hard it was prepared, the soldiers often had to shave it with a knife piece by piece so they could eat it. The Government later requested Hershey to produce a special tropical bar, able to withstand the high temperatures and humidity of the Pacific theater. By the end of the war, Hersheys had produced over three billion of what were known as “D ration bars.” The soldiers were not in love with the taste, and often used them to barter with civilians once they were on shore.
Photo credit: U.S. Department of Defense
Milton Hershey died just a few months after the end of Word War Two. There is a monument in front of the Hershey school which fittingly has the look of him guiding a young boy and says, “His deeds are his monument. His life is our inspiration.”