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Who is Milton Hershey?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 23, 2024
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Milton Snavey Hershey, known as M.S. Hershey or simply MS, was a candy entrepreneur in the United States who is famous as the founder of the Hershey Chocolate Company, which later turned into the Hershey Foods Corporation. Many people around the world have eaten the signature chocolate product of the Hershey Corporation, the Hershey Bar, and the formulation of this iconic food has changed little since Hershey perfected it in the late 1890s.

Hershey was born in 1857 in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. His education stopped at the fourth grade, at which point he was apprenticed as a printer. Milton Hershey quickly proved inept at the printing trade, and he studied under a candymaker, eventually starting his own candy company. His first venture failed, as did his second, but he eventually opened a successful caramel company in his hometown, taking advantage of the ample supply of dairy products in rural Pennsylvania for his Lancaster Caramels.

In the 1890s, Milton Hershey was introduced to milk chocolate, and it filled him with inspiration, leading him to divest from the caramel business and focus on chocolates. The milk chocolate of the period was a challenging food, often extremely gritty and bitter, and Milton Hershey worked to perfect a technique for processing the chocolate to yield a very smooth, creamy chocolate bar which was also designed to be affordable. Once Hershey Bars started hitting the shelves, Milton Hershey was off and running.

One of Hershey's more notable contributions outside the chocolate world was the construction of Hershey, Pennsylvania, a factory town complete with housing for workers, public transportation, schools, and entertainment facilities such as theaters. The town also housed the Hershey factory, and the Hershey Industrial School, established in 1909 by Milton Hershey and his wife Catherine for orphaned children. The Milton Hershey School, as it is now known, continues to provide an excellent education to children who would otherwise be unable to afford it.

While Milton Hershey is well known for his candymaking abilities, thanks to the global company which bears his name today, he was also a philanthropist. He donated his fortune to charity, and promoted the welfare of his workers and their children throughout his life. Milton Hershey was shy about his philanthropy, and he would undoubtedly have been deeply embarrassed by the emotional tributes made at his funeral in 1945, when members of the Hershey community turned out in force to mourn the passing of their community's leader and greatest benefactor.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a PublicPeople researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By jmc88 — On Oct 10, 2011

When I went to Hershey it seemed like the entire town based itself around tourism and the factory. This is not at all a bad thing considering that it is a very successful company and due to the efforts of Milton Hershey has enjoyed a lot of success due to both his philanthropy and kindness.

Hershey did not have to give as much as he did, but because of his efforts the town of Hershey enjoys its spotlight and from what I saw had one of the best town atmospheres I have ever seen. Maybe it is because of how he ran his company and the whole attitude and atmosphere of his company made the town that way, but I would definitely recommend that if anyone were to be in Pennsylvania to stop by in Hershey and enjoy the town.

By TreeMan — On Oct 09, 2011

I have been to the Hershey amusement park and I have to say I was very impressed with the rides. The atmosphere was amazing, the chocolate may have had something to do with it, but regardless the rides were very good and I had a good time.

I found out later that Milton Hershey founded Hershey Park in 1907 and that amusement park has been around for over one hundred years. I have to wonder if this is one of the oldest continuing amusement parks in the world and wonder where it ranks in its longevity.

By jcraig — On Oct 08, 2011

Milton Hershey lived a very interesting life. On top of owning a very successful candy company he and his wife could not have children so they decided to use their wealth to create a couple schools in the Hershey area and give as much back to the community as they could. They did a lot to help the town out and are held in very high regard even today, not just because he put the town on the map.

Another interesting thing about Milton Hershey is that he was supposed to be aboard the Titanic during its fateful voyage but fell ill and had to take another ship out. There is a check in the Hershey museum he wrote to buy the ticket and he was lucky that he happened to fall ill at that exact time.

By matthewc23 — On Oct 08, 2011

I remember once when I visited Hersey Pennsylvania and went to their factory. It was the greatest candy store I have ever been to and they had free king sized candy bars at the end of most of the rides in the amusement park, which had fairly decent roller coasters.

When I was there and learned of the history of Milton Hershey I could not help but think of what he would think of Hershey today and how successful his company has become. I bet he could not fathom the production of candy that his company puts out in a single day or the money that is made in a single hour.

By andee — On Oct 07, 2011

I love Hershey's chocolate and think one reason they have been so successful is that they make many kinds of chocolate.

Some people love nuts mixed in with their chocolate, while others like it plain. Dark chocolate has become quite popular in recent years, and you can find Hershey's dark chocolate as well.

Giving people more options means you will sell more product. I like all kinds of chocolate and have always been a big Hershey's fan. This is the first brand I reach for when I want a good chocolate bar.

By honeybees — On Oct 06, 2011

I think many people automatically think of Hershey's when they think of chocolate. I have read several articles about Milton Hershey and all of the good things he did.

I know that the Milton Hershey medical center is a well known facility that has helped many local people.

He has made a big difference in the local community because he was so generous with his money. Something that tastes so good that can have such an impact on so many people is a win-win situation in my book.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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