Milton Hershey revolutionized the way the world approached chocolate. His passion was simple: to make this sweet treat become something that everyone could afford. In the early days of the 20th century, only those who were in the upper socioeconomic classes could afford chocolate. Through Hershey’s efforts, he did more than make chocolate more accessible. His work literally transformed lives.
1. A Town That He Founded
The town of Hershey was founded by Milton Hershey so that his chocolate factory could have a sustainable workforce. This wasn’t out of the ordinary for this time period, but the amount of success that the town has seen over the years is certainly unusual. More than 30 million people go to Hershey, PA every year just so they can experience the chocolate manufacturing process.
2. An Incredible Success
During the Great Depression, the US manufacturing sector took numerous hits. Many people lost their jobs. That wasn’t the case when it came to what Milton Hershey was offering. Not a single employee lost their job because of the economy during the entire decade. This was because he focused on local and sustainable growth. He made chocolate thanks to local milk so the entire economic chain could withstand the forces pressed against it.
3. Not An Instant Success
Milton Hershey had the typical entrepreneurial rollercoaster ride. He actually had 3 different candy factories that were unsuccessful before he began to focus on chocolate. In his teens, his family even encouraged him to try screenprinting and ice cream making, both things that he really wasn’t passionate about. Despite the failures, he never gave up and wound up finding more success than he could have ever imagined.
4. The Plopping Sound
One of the most iconic candies produced by Hershey is the Hershey’s Kiss. This foil wrapped candy is even honored by the street lights that line the streets of the Pennsylvania town. There isn’t a romantic story behind the name of this candy. When the candies were first being made, Milton Hershey noticed that they made a sort of “plopping” sound when they hit the conveyor belt. The sound reminded him of the sound of kissing and that’s how the candy got its name.
5. A Passion For Children
Catherine Hershey was by her husband’s side for all of his failures and eventual success. She also couldn’t have any children. This didn’t stop the Hershey’s from helping kids who were less fortunate. As part of the town they would found, parks and schools would become part of the infrastructure. They opened an orphanage. When his wife passed away unexpectedly, almost all of his wealth was transferred to the Hershey Trust, which supported one of the nation’s best educational systems at the time.
6. Support For the War Effort
After the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, the US manufacturing sector was kicked into high gear to support the war effort. This included the food industry. Hershey was asked to provide chocolate bars as part of the rations that were given to soldiers. He would eventually produce two bars: the standard ration and the very popular tropical bar.
7. A Lasting Legacy
Milton Hershey worked well into his 80s, almost never taking a day off until his death in 1945. He was visually thrifty, making sure that anyone he encountered who had a need would have that need met. The school that he and his wife founded serve nearly 2,000 students every year. Residents of the town still benefit from the Hershey Foundation culturally and with advanced educational opportunities. Hershey’s company is the largest chocolate manufacturer in the world and produces several candies.
8. Faith As a Foundation
Milton’s mother was a Mennonite, so he always viewed his hard work as a foundation of his faith. He may have left school at the age of 13, but he didn’t mind. Hershey loved to work. He would find his passion thanks to his mother, who often referred to herself as a widow even though she was still married to Milton’s father, and that would wind up changing the world eventually.
Milton Hershey started his first business with a $150 loan from his aunt. Eventually he would build a mansion, but one that had a direct view of the business that had made him great. Hershey thrived on things that were new and when he was willing to put every bit of energy into his business, his creativity could take him anywhere. Eventually that led him back home.