Sunday, July 13, 2014

Milton Herhsey: Man Who Made Millions Smile

Milton Hershey
The 19th century saw the industrialization of United States. Manufacturing was a major sector of the economy. With additional jobs, income was growing. By the entry of the 20th century, people began to enjoy once luxury goods, including chocolate. One man took advantage of the hype for chocolate. Milton Hershey’s name would later become a household name for it. 

Milton Hershey (September 13, 1857 – October 13, 1845) was an American candy tycoon gaining popularity and wealth from his enormous confectionery empire under the name of Hershey Chocolate. From a rural community in Pennsylvania, he repeatedly attempted to create a company that would bring sweets and smile to the people. He also exhibited great amount of compassion and generosity towards his employees, which made him a model entrepreneur for many.

Hershey was born on September 13, 1857 at a small Pennsylvania town of Derry. His parents were Henry and Veronica Hershey. His father had difficulty in finding a job and hence had difficulty in providing for his family. Meanwhile, his mother thought him the meaning of hard work and perseverance to succeed in life. These traits were strengthen further by his rural upbringing. It would eventually help him in his business career. His family was on the moved after his 4th grade and caused Milton his education. For eight years of moving from one town to another, he entered seven schools. The moving from one town to another also had another effect. He had difficulty in finding job and eventually made him poor at the age of thirty. At the age of fourteen, he worked in a newspaper but later left because of his lack of enthusiasm. His real passion soon appeared in making candies and sweets.

Sometime later after his newspaper job, with the help from his mother, he entered the confectionery company of Joseph Royer and became his apprentice. He stayed in the company for four years until 1876. At the age of eighteen, he decided to establish his own company, the M.S. Hershey, Wholesale, and Retail Confectioner. It was just in time for the centennial anniversary of the Declaration of Independence. He sought to make a profit from the upcoming significant event. His first company lasted for 6 years but eventually incurred losses and failed by 1882.

After the failure of his first company, he sought comfort in Denver, Colorado. He joined his father and began to work in a confectionery factory. The job had enormous impact for Hershey. The factory was the place where he learned how to make a caramel. A year later, he traveled far and wide reaching Chicago then to New Orleans then to the Big Apple, New York. In New York, he decided to try again for a candy business. His venture, however, was again a bust. 

He failed but not hopeless. In 1886, he moved back to his hometown in Pennsylvania. At the age of twenty-eight years old, he tried once more. He founded the Lancaster Caramel Company. Unlike other failed ventures, this became successful. It was thanks to a British Candy Importer who sold his products both domestically and internationally. He managed to persuade local banks to finance and later expand his business. It was a great achievement for Milton Hershey. After several tries, he hit the jackpot. By 1890, Lancaster Caramel Company was one of the top caramel producers in the United States.

In 1893, Hershey discovered his destiny to become the real life Willy Wonka.  The World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago displays different technological advances throughout the world. Milton Hershey visited the expo. He saw and, later, intrigued by a machinery created by a German firm Lehmann & Co. The machine of the company was capable of making chocolates in vast quantities. Milton was so impressed that after the Expo ended, he bought the machinery and shipped it to his factory in Lancaster. Beside his factory, the machinery was installed and two chocolatiers were hired to operate it. In 1894, Hershey Chocolate was founded as part of Lancaster Caramel Company. 

At first, Hershey Chocolate only meant as a compliment for the caramel products. However, on April 17, 1895, Hershey began to produce excess chocolate and decided to sell it to the market for extra profit. The first batch of Hershey Chocolate had a different taste. It still had the bitter taste that pure chocolate has. Nevertheless, as time went by, Hershey began to experiment for the recipe of a perfect milk chocolate. 

In 1900, Milton Hershey made a decision to drop his caramel business and concentrate in the chocolate business. He sold his successful Lancaster Caramel Company to the newly formed American Caramel Company for $1 million. Then, he introduced a new and improved milk chocolate bar. He then pioneered the molded chocolate bar that we see today. In 1903, he bought a 1200-acre land in his hometown and constructed a chocolate factory. His location could have not been impeccable. It was surrounded by suppliers of dairy, which he needed for his chocolate. Soon afterwards, the beautiful and delicious aroma of chocolate could be smelled throughout the town. Back then, chocolate can only be purchased by the wealthy. But when Hershey adopted the idea of mass production to chocolate, it helped dramatically to make the price of chocolate affordable for the masses. Few years later, in 1907, he introduced his most popular product, Hershey Kisses. It became an instant hit and continued to be popular even to this day. In 1908, Hershey continued to experiment on new flavors of chocolate. He introduced to the market milk chocolate bars with almonds. It too became a crowd bringer.

Hershey helped chocolate to be in reach of the masses and, also, made chocolate help his employees as well. In 1907, he opened the Hershey Park. It was a community, which was complete of all basic infrastructure of a town. The town had housing for the employees and their families. Later, it included a hospital and schools for the children of the employees.  

Milton Hershey and his wife, Catherine, were childless. To compensate for the loss, they helped orphans to have a better life. In 1909, Hershey Industrial School was established to teach orphaned boys skills in various fields. It served as a preparation for the boys to find a job in the future. 

He was a philanthropist and supporter of the arts, as other business magnates were. In 1933, he opened the Hershey Theater. In 1935, he founded the M. S. Hershey Foundation. In 1937, he built Hershey Gardens in memory of his deceased wife who died in 1915. Many more were constructed as part of Hershey’s giving back.

In October 13, 1945, Milton Hershey died in a hospital that bears his name.

Milton Hershey a new type of benevolent employer from the previous era filled with abusive robber barons. Hershey introduced to the public a product that was once only nobility and royalty could enjoy. He was man that doesn't just give smiles to his customers but also smiles to his employees who worked hard to make his dreams into reality. 

See also:
Smith, A. Fast food And Junk Food: An Encyclopedia of What We Love to Eat. California: Greenwood, 2012.

"Milton Hershey" Famous Entrepreneurs. Accessed May 19, 2013.

"Our Story: Milton S. Hershey" The Hershey Company. Accessed May 19, 2013.

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