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.
Milton Hershey was born on September 13, 1857, to Veronica "Fanny" Snavely and Henry Hershey. His family were members of Pennsylvania's Mennonite community. His ancestors were Swiss and German and had settled in Pennsylvania in the early 1700s. He grew up speaking the German dialect "Pennsylvania Dutch" language. Being a youngster in rural Pennsylvania, there was work to be done. Like many rural young people of the time, Milton was expected to help out on the family farm, and he learned early on of the value of hard work and perseverance. Henry Hershey rarely stayed anywhere very long, and was prone to leaving his wife and child for long periods. Because of this, Hershey had a very limited education with no schooling after 4th grade.
Milton's returning was a great joy for "Aunt Mattie" (Martha Snavely, Veronica's sister) who loved Milton as if he were her own son. His return was short-lived though. He soon left for New York.
Returning to Lancaster in 1887, 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.
Using the proceeds from the 1900 sale of the Lancaster Caramel Company, Hershey initially acquired 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 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. The first Hershey bar was produced in 1900. Hershey's Kisses were developed in 1907, and the Hershey's Bar with almonds was introduced in 1908.
On March 2, 1903, he began construction on what was to become the world’s largest chocolate manufacturing company, only he didn't know that it will be a large company. 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.
The factory was in the center of a dairy farmland, but with Hershey’s support, houses, businesses, churches, and a transportation infrastructure accreted around the plant. Because the land was surrounded by dairy farms, Hershey was able to use fresh milk to mass-produce quality milk chocolate. Hershey continued to experiment and perfect the process of making milk chocolate using the techniques he had first learned for adding milk to make caramels when he had moved to Colorado.
On May 25, 1898, Hershey married Catherine "Kitty" Sweeney. Since the couple could not have children, they decided to help others, establishing the Hershey Industrial School with a Deed of Trust in 1909. Catherine died prematurely in 1915 and Hershey never remarried. In 1918, Hershey transferred the majority of his assets, including control of the company, to the Milton Hershey School Trust fund, to benefit the Industrial School. The trust fund has a majority of voting shares in The Hershey Company, allowing it to keep control of the company. In 1951, the school was renamed the Milton Hershey School. The Milton Hershey School Trust also has 100% control of Hershey Entertainment and Resorts Company, which owns the Hotel Hershey and Hersheypark, among other properties. He took great pride in the growth of the school, the town, and his business. He placed the quality of his product and the well-being of his workers ahead of profits.
He was part of a forward-looking group of entrepreneurs in this country and abroad who believed that providing better living conditions for their workers resulted in better workers…Milton Hershey conceived of building a community that would support and nurture his workers. Developing the community became a lifelong passion for him.
In 1935, Hershey established the M.S. Hershey Foundation, a private charitable foundation that provides educational and cultural opportunities for Hershey residents. The foundation supplies funding for three entities: theHershey Museum and Hershey Gardens, the Hershey Theatre and the Hershey Community Archives.
The founding of the Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center occurred when the board of the trust went to the Dauphin County Orphans Court with the cy-près doctrine (cy près is a French phrase meaning "As close as possible"). It was a gift from the Milton Hershey School Trust to the people of Pennsylvania, with an initial endowment of $50 million and only one restriction—the hospital had to be built in Hershey. The hospital is a teaching hospital with an annual budget exceeding the initial construction cost.
In 1912, the Hersheys were to travel on the ill-fated British luxury liner RMS Titanic. However, they canceled their reservations due to last-minute business matters Hershey was needed for, contrary to the popular belief that it was due to Hershey's wife, Kitty Hershey, falling ill. Kitty Hershey had been ill for several years at this point. Instead, they booked passage to New York City on the German luxury liner America. The Hershey Museum displays a copy of the check Milton Hershey wrote to the White Star Line as a deposit for a first-class stateroom on the Titanic.
Hershey Chocolate supplied the U.S. armed forces with chocolate bars during World War II. These bars were called Ration D Bars and Tropical Chocolate Bars. The Ration D Bar had very specific requirements from the army: It had to weigh 1 or 2 ounces (28 or 57 g); it had to resist melting at temperatures higher than 90 degrees, and it had to have an unpleasant-enough flavor to prevent the troops from developing cravings for them. After a year or two, the Army was impressed enough with the durability and success of the Ration D Bar to commission Milton to make the Tropical Chocolate Bar. The only difference between them was that the Tropical Chocolate Bar was made to taste better than the Ration D Bar did and still be as durable as the Ration D Bar was. Tropical Chocolate Bars were designed not to melt in the tropical weather. It is estimated that between 1940 and 1945, over 3 billion of the Ration D Bars and Tropical Chocolate Bars were produced and distributed to soldiers throughout the world. In 1939, the Hershey plant was capable of producing 100,000 ration bars a day. By the end of World War II, the entire Hershey plant was producing ration bars at a rate of 24 million a week. For its service throughout World War II, the Hershey Chocolate Company was issued five Army-Navy 'E' Production Awards for exceeding expectations for quality and quantity in the production of the Ration D Bar and Tropical Chocolate Bar. The Hershey factory machine shop even made some parts for tanks and machines during the war.
Milton S. Hershey died at the age of 88 on October 13, 1945, in Hershey Hospital, a year after he had retired from the board. Today at the Hershey School you can find a bronze statue of Milton Hershey with an orphan boy wrapped in his arms. Below the statue are these words "His deeds are his monument. His life is our inspiration."