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American manufacturer and philanthropist who founded the Hershey Chocolate Corporation and popularized chocolate candy throughout much of the world.
Milton Hershey - Full Episode (44:04)
Hershey was bailed out by a loan from the Lancaster County National Bank, but later became one of Lancaster's most successful citizens.
Milton Hershey brought chocolate, normally a luxury of the rich, to the masses.
Learn how Milton Hershey built Lancaster Caramel Company after nearly failing.
The full biography of Milton Hershey.
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Three years later he began building a mammoth and modern candy-making facility in his birthplace of Derry Church. It opened in 1905, setting a new course for Hershey and the candy industry.
Quickly, the Hershey Chocolate Company's success far exceeded that of its founder's previous venture. His winning ideas included the Hershey Kiss in 1907, which the company's founder named himself. The trademark foil wrapper was added in 1924.
As the company grew and Hershey's wealth expanded, so did his vision for creating a model community in his home region. In the town that came to be known as Hershey, Pennsylvania, Hershey built schools, parks, churches, recreational facilities and housing for his employees. He even added a trolley system for his workers.
At his side for much of this philanthropy was his wife, Catherine, whom he'd married in 1898. Unable to have children of their own, the Hersheys focused a good portion of their giving on endeavors that affected kids. In 1909 the couple opened the Hershey Industrial School, a facility for orphaned boys. It has since become a landing spot for girls as well and is now known as the Milton Hershey School.
In 1918, three years after Catherine's unexpected death, Hershey transferred much of his wealth, which included his ownership of the Hershey Chocolate Company, to the Hershey Trust, which funds the Hershey School.
Hershey's philanthropy kept going even when the economy struggled and he was nearing the end of his life. In the 1930s, during the Great Depression, Hershey ignited a building mini-boom in his town in order to keep men working. He ordered the construction of a large hotel, a community building and new offices for the Hershey Company.
During World War II, Hershey backed the country's military efforts by supplying forces with chocolate bars called the Ration D Bar and the better-tasting Tropical Chocolate Bar.
To those who knew Hershey, his generosity wasn't surprising. Shy and reserved, Hershey's quiet demeanor contrasted greatly with many of America's other business titans. While he seldom wrote or read, and had been forced to leave school early, Hershey was driven to make sure those around him received a great education. His display of wealth was rather modest, if not downright thrifty. His house and the community he'd helped create meant everything to him. When it came to building his own home, he made sure the Hershey Company headquarters was part of the view.
Following his wife Catherine's death, Hershey never remarried and supposedly carried a picture of his late wife wherever he traveled.
In keeping with the work ethic his mother instilled in him, Hershey continued to work well into his eighties. He died in Hershey, Pennsylvania, on October 13, 1945.
His legacy as a businessman and philanthropist continues to this day. The Hershey Chocolate Company has endured as one of the world's great candy makers, with brands that include Almond Joy, Mounds, Cadbury, Reese's and Twizzler.
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