Milton S. Hershey:
His Legacy Continues

Business is a Matter of Human Service

A vintage photo of Milton Hershey surrounded by children. Hershey and a few chosen employees worked side by side and into the night, until just the right blend of ingredients was found for milk chocolate. As one of these men recalled later, "Nobody told Mr. Hershey how to make milk chocolate. He just found out the hard way." Personal involvement in the work at hand was typical of Mr. Hershey and was certainly one factor which earned him the devotion and admiration of many employees.

Milton Hershey's great contribution to the American food industry was the organization of the mass production of milk chocolate. Much of the machinery necessary for mass production was either developed or adapted in Hershey's factory. He did not begin with the clear intention of making chocolate bars and for several years produced many varieties of fancy candies. When he did make the brilliant business decision to concentrate on the Hershey bar, though, and on one or two other basic chocolate products such as cocoa and chocolate coatings, his name became the nationwide symbol for quality chocolate in a phenomenally short time.

Hershey had other qualities as well, which made him a good businessman. He was imaginative: the Hershey Kiss, for example, appears to have been his own idea. He had the skill of choosing able assistants and of keeping their devotion. He had a broad grasp of markets and of their possibilities and, furthermore, he was daring. Once he had made a decision, he put his entire force behind it, whether it was making chocolate or producing his own sugar in Cuba. On the whole, he was respected for honesty, for driving hard bargains, and for having a first-class product to sell.

Mr. Hershey was a doer, not a philosopher. He never wrote and seldom talked about his beliefs. Nevertheless, he obviously thought a lot about such matters as success and the value and purposes of money. He seems gradually to have developed, from his experience, a set of principles which he followed consistently.

Milton Hershey believed wealth should be used for the benefit of others and practiced what he preached. He also understood (along with many other great businessmen) that good works are also good business and therefore did not lessen the depth or scope of his interest in other people's welfare.

Mr. Hershey used his chocolate fortune primarily for two projects: the town of Hershey and his Industrial School. Although the question was raised of whether he was well-advised to tie up his fortune in the manner he chose, no one ever questioned his sincerity.

His Deeds are His Monument

Plans for building the town went hand in hand with building the factory. Since Hershey started his company in the middle of farmland, not in a town, it was clear from the start that he would have to provide a place for at least some of his workers, as well as his managerial staff, to live.

Plans were drawn for a pleasant tree-lined community which provided for all the needs of its inhabitants. A bank, hotel, school, churches, parks, golf courses, and a zoo followed each other in rapid succession. With characteristc forethought, Mr. Hershey developed a trolley system so that people did not feel compelled to live in Hershey and had a way to get to work from nearby towns.

Although the town was well established by its 10th anniversary in 1913, Hershey had a second building boom in the 1930s. During the Depression, Mr. Hershey kept men at work building the Hotel, the community building with two elegant theatres, Senior Hall for the boys' school, a windowless, air-conditioned office building for the factory, and the Arena. The last two were excellent examples of Mr. Hershey's innovative approach. The controlled environment of the office building was way ahead of its time and the arena was, at that time, the largest such structure made of poured concrete and unsupported by columns. It was Mr. Hershey's boast that no one was laid off in Hershey during the Depression years.

A Man of Principle

Mr. Hershey's belief that an individual is morally obligated to share the fruits of success with others resulted in significant contributions to society. Together with his wife Catherine, he established the most prominent of his philanthropic endeavors, the Hershey Industrial School. Saddened because they had no children of their own, and anxious to put their growing fortune to good use, Milton and Catherine Hershey founded this school for orphaned boys in 1909.

The School's Deed of Trust stipulated that: "All orphans admitted to the School shall be fed with plain, wholesome food; plainly, neatly, and comfortably clothed, without distinctive dress; and fitly lodged. Due regard shall be paid to their health; their physical training shall be attended to, and they shall have suitable and proper exercise and recreation. They shall be instructed in the several branches of a sound education . . . . . The main object in view is to train young men to useful trades and occupations, so that they can earn their own livelihood."

Behind the founding of the school were Mr. Hershey's own childhood memories of hard times and his hope that he could spare some children the pains he had experienced. Here again, though some criticized, the school became the principal recipient of Hershey's fortune and continues to be so today.

When Milton Hershey died in 1945 at the age of 88, a chocolate bar had carried his name around the world and made him a legend. Poor boy turned millionaire, he was loved and admired as well as envied and sometimes misunderstood.

Hershey had the genius to develop the chocolate industry in the right place at the right time. His personal convictions about the obligations of wealth and the quality of life in the town he founded have made the company, community, and school a living legacy.

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"The Man Behind the Chocolate Bar," Hershey Museum, exhibit catalog, 1988.