Milton S. Hershey

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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.

He was honored by the United States Postal Service with a 32¢ Great Americans series (1980–2000) postage stamp.


Early life

Milton Hershey was born on a farm close to Derry Township, Pennsylvania town of Derry Church (renamed Hershey in 1906), the only surviving child of Henry and Fanny Snavely Hershey. Due to the family’s frequent moves he dropped out of school after he turned 13 years old and was then apprenticed to a Lancaster, Pennsylvania, printer. The apprenticeship was soon terminated as he did not like the craft and purposely let his hat fall into the printing press. He then served a four-year apprenticeship with a Lancaster candy maker, Joseph Royer. In 1876 after completing his apprenticeship he established his first candy-making business in Philadelphia. That initial effort failed, as did his next attempt in New York City. His Reformed Mennonite mother’s family helped finance these unsuccessful ventures in the candy industry. His mother and her sister, Aunt Martha "Mattie" Snavely supported the business working for Milton Hershey in the shop. Aunt Mattie also provided several financial loans to Milton Hershey.

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 soared to the top. It was this business that established him as a candy maker, and set the stage for future accomplishments.

Hershey became fascinated with the machinery to make German chocolate exhibited at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition by J. M. Lehman Co. of Dresden, Germany,[1] and bought the equipment for his company.

Hershey Chocolate

With the proceeds from the 1900 sale of the Lancaster Caramel Company, Hershey initially acquired some 1,200 acres (160 km²) of farm land about 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 Swiss 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. On March 2, 1903, he began construction on what was to become the world’s largest chocolate manufacturing plant. 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.

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