Thursday, January 6, 2022

Milton Hershey: The Chocolate King


Born in Derry Township, Pennsylvania on September 13, 1857, Milton Hershey was raised in a Mennonite community where he spoke Pennsylvania Dutch. His parents were as different as day is from night. His mother came from a prominent family of conservative preachers, and her ancestors had been among the wealthier Swiss emigrants fleeing religious persecution for the New World in the 1700s. A practical, hard-working woman, Veronica “Fanny” Snavely dressed soberly and modestly. Independent and well-spoken despite a limited education, Henry Hershey was a romantic. He dressed to impress: vest, frock coat, striped pants, and a silk high-top hat. Unfortunately for Fanny and Milton, his father struggled to hold and job, and often left the family for the next great opportunity. 
Milton’s formal education ceased after the fourth grade, but he was a life-long student. When he was fifteen years old he went to work for Joseph C. Royer’s Ice Cream Parlor and Garden. Not only did the obvious benefits come with the job where you get to ingest your mistakes, but the shop was a half block from City Hall and close to the main market where farmers sold their produce and meat. He met pretty girls, ambitious men, and prominent visitors. 
In addition to scooping ice cream, Milton was also responsible for making the various candies sold by the shop, the most common of which were all made of boiled sugar such as lemon drop, lollipops, and the very popular marshmallows. At this time, chocolate was only just being produced in solid form. It was also expensive and not readily available to the “masses.” 
Milton would change that after his visit to the 1893 Columbian World Exposition in
Chicago. By then he had started, succeeded, failed, then succeeded again with four candy companies. The latest, The Lancaster Caramel Company, employed 1,300 employees in two factories. After seeing Germany’s J.M. Lehmann’s machine that turned raw cocoa beans into chocolate bars, Milton was convinced that there was great commercial potential for European-style chocolate in America. 
At the end of the fair, he purchased the Lehmann equipment, saying, “Caramels are a fad. Chocolate is a permanent thing.” He came home and sold his caramel company for one million dollars and set up the Hershey Chocolate Company. By New Year’s Day 1894, Milton was making cocoa powder for drinking, baking chocolate, and sweet chocolate coatings that could be poured over caramels. It would be another two years before he could devise a solid bar that would be sold to the public. 

By the time he was forty years old, friends and family were convinced Milton was a confirmed bachelor. And perhaps he would have remained so if he hadn’t met the twenty-five-year-old daughter of Irish immigrants, Catherine “Kitty” Sweeney. Slim with long auburn hair that she wore pinned up, she caught Milton’s eye immediately. Within a year, they were married. He hadn’t even told his mother, he was courting anyone. 
In 1900, using proceeds from the sale of The Lancaster Caramel Company, he acquired farmland about thirty miles from his birthplace. There he could obtain the large supplies of fresh milk needed to produce the milk chocolate he’d finally perfected after years of trial and error. 
Construction on the facility began March 2, 1903, and when completed in 1905, the factory was the largest chocolate manufacturing plant in the world. Milton used the latest mass production techniques, and his candy became the first nationally marketed product of its kind. 
What’s your favorite Hershey’s candy? 

Linda Shenton Matchett writes about ordinary people who did extraordinary things in days gone by. A volunteer docent and archivist for the Wright Museum of WWII, Linda is a former trustee for her local public library. She is a native of Baltimore, Maryland and was born a stone’s throw from Fort McHenry. Linda has lived in historic places all her life, and is now located in central New Hampshire where her favorite activities include exploring historic sites and immersing herself in the imaginary worlds created by other authors. Learn more about Linda and her books at 

On the Rails: A Harvey Girl Story

Warren, Ohio, 1910: Katherine Newman loves being a teacher, but she loves Henry Jorgensen more, which is why she’s willing to give up her job to marry him. But instead of proposing, Henry breaks up with her. Devastated, Katherine seeks to escape the probing eyes and wagging tongues of her small town. A former Harvey Girl, Katherine’s mother arranges for Katherine to be hired at the Williams, Arizona Harvey House. Can she carve out a new life in the stark desert land, unlike anything she’s ever known?

Henry Jorgensen loves Katherine with all his heart, but as the eldest son of a poor farmer can he provide for her as she deserves? The family’s lien holder calls in the mortgage, and Henry must set aside his own desires in order to help his parents meet their financial obligation. But when Katherine leaves town after their breakup, he realizes he’s made the biggest mistake of his life. Can he find her and convince her to give their love a second chance? 

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  1. Thanks for posting! Now I'm going to be obsessed with chocolate all day! My favorite Hershey's candy is probably the fairly new Cherry Kiss. It's like a miniature cordial cherry, so good! Mr. Hershey's drive to succeed is amazing. What a risk to sell a lucrative business to take such an unknown product, but aren't we all glad he did?

    1. I'm always obsessed with chocolate (LOL)! I agree. It would have been quite a risk. I hadn't heard about the new Cherry kiss. Sounds fabulous.

  2. this is such an interesting post. thanks for sharing. oh but this book looks fascinating. I love Harvey girl books.

    1. Hi Lori!Thanks for stopping by. I'm glad you enjoyed the post. I love Harvey girl books too - there aren't too many of them.

  3. oh my, am I getting hungry for chocolate with almonds.💕

    1. Thanks for visiting! Chocolate with almonds is a great choice!