The community of Hershey traditionally celebrates Mr. Hershey's birthday each year on September 13. This year, guests of the Hershey Story museum will receive cupcakes and Hershey bars, beginning at 11:00 a.m. that day. A celebratory concert on the historic Aeolian-Skinner organ will be offered at the Hershey Theatre at noon on September 13 as well.
We're celebrating Mr. Hershey's legacy here, as well as on the Inside Hershey Facebook page. Feel free to join in with your own Hershey memories! As part of the celebration, here are 100 facts about Milton S. Hershey and the town that bears his name:
Mr. Hershey’s Background
- Milton S. Hershey was born in Derry Township (today better known as Hershey) on September 13, 1857. He died on October 13, 1945 at the age of 88.
- His parents were Henry and Fanny Hershey.
- Henry was a farmer and a bit of an inventor, but he never had much success.
- Milton’s middle name was Snavely, his mother’s maiden name.
- He left school at the age of 14 to start an apprenticeship.
- After a failed printing apprenticeship, Milton became an apprentice to a candymaker in Lancaster named Joseph Royer. He learned a great deal from Royer before deciding to set out on his own as a candymaker.
Mr. Hershey’s Early Business Ventures
- Mr. Hershey opened his first candy business at the age of 18. This was in Philadelphia, the focal point of the country’s centennial celebration.
- He went bankrupt twice—in Philadelphia in 1882 and in New York City in 1886.
- He also explored business opportunities in Denver, Chicago and New Orleans, but found nothing satisfactory.
- While he was in Denver, he learned the art of adding fresh milk to caramels to make them creamier and chewier.
- He returned to Lancaster in 1886 and opened the Lancaster Caramel Company.
- He relied on a former employee, William “Lebbie” Lebkicher (who became a trusted friend and advisor), and his Aunt Mattie to give him enough money to buy the necessary supplies.
- The caramel that made him famous was called the “Crystal A” caramel.
- He bought his first chocolate-making equipment from a German company, the J.M. Lehmann Company, in 1893. He saw the equipment at work at the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago. He was so fascinated by it that he purchased two of the actual pieces of machinery he saw on display at the exposition, and then bought additional equipment directly from the company’s New York office.
- He established the Hershey Chocolate Company in 1894 as a subsidiary of the caramel company.
- He became the first person in the United States to mass-produce milk chocolate. In late 1900,he introduced the world to his milk chocolate products.
- On August 10, 1900, he sold his caramel company for $1 million and relinquished the Lancaster factory, the caramel recipes and the “Crystal A” trademark.
- He kept the right to make chocolate and all of his chocolate-making equipment, though, and rented a wing of the caramel factory to continue that venture.
The Famous Chocolate Factory
- Mr. Hershey returned to his birthplace to build what would become the largest chocolate factory in the world. He settled in Derry Township because he needed cows for fresh milk, hard-working people and a source of water.
- Construction on the factory began on March 2, 1903 and ended in 1905.
- The original factory has grown to occupy 2.2 million square feet today. When it was first constructed, the factory covered six acres.
- The bushes outside the original factory that spell out “Hershey Cocoa” are red barberry bushes.
- There are three chocolate factories in town: the original, a new one on the west side of town (built in 1990) and the Reese’s plant on Chocolate Avenue (built in 1957).
And Speaking of Reese’s...
- Harry Burnett Reese, founder of the H.B. Reese Candy Company, was once an employee of the Hershey Chocolate Company. He decided he could make a living by making his own candy.
- In 1923 he began making that candy in his basement at night. Peanut butter cups became part of his assortment in 1928. In 1942, due to war rationing, Reese eliminated everything except for peanut butter cups from his product line.
- Reese got his chocolate from the Hershey Chocolate Company and always enjoyed a good relationship with the company. All of his peanut butter cups bore the banner, “Made in Chocolate Town—So They Must Be Good.”
- Reese died in 1956 and was succeeded by his six sons. In 1963 they sold the company to Hershey Chocolate Corporation.
- Today The Hershey Company continues to produce Reese’s peanut butter cups, which have become its most popular candy.
The Town of Hershey
- It was important to Mr. Hershey to create a community where his employees could be self-reliant and own their own homes.
- In creating “his” company town, Mr. Hershey made provisions for recreation (he provided a park and community center), religion (he donated $20,000 to five congregations), and financial independence (he established the town’s bank).
- The official name of the community is Derry Township. It has never been officially incorporated as Hershey.
- In the early 1900s, the town held a contest to determine the name the U.S. Postal Service would use. The winning entry was “Hersheykoko,” which got shortened to just “Hershey.” That’s the name the Postal Service has acknowledged since 1906.
- About 22,000 people use the services of Derry Township, but only about 9,000 people live in the town itself. The town is 26 square miles.
Those Kiss-Shaped Streetlights
- The lights line Chocolate Avenue. There are 107 total—55 wrapped and 52 unwrapped.
- In addition, there are eight lights on Park Avenue between Chocolate Avenue and the railroad bridge, plus a few at the entrance to the West Hershey Plant and at the entrances of each of the company’s factories outside the town of Hershey.
- The lights were installed in 1963.
- They were installed under the direction of then-Hershey Chocolate Corporation President Samuel Hinkle and were nicknamed “Hinkle’s Twinkles.”
The Cuban Connection
- Mr. Hershey owned sugar plantations and mills in Cuba from 1916 until 1946.
- When they were sold in 1946, the operations included 60,000 acres of land, five raw sugar mills, a peanut oil plant,a henequen plant, four electric plants, and 251 miles of railroad track with sufficient locomotives and cars.
- His flagship sugar mill was located at “Central Hershey” in Cuba. The town that was created to support the mill was developed as a model town and featured many of the same types of services that Mr. Hershey had established in “his” town in Pennsylvania.
- Profits from the sugar business in Cuba helped sustain the Pennsylvania town during the Great Depression. It was with this money that Mr. Hershey was able to embark on his “Great Building Campaign.
- The Chocolate Spa at the Hotel Hershey features Cuban treatments in honor of this part of Mr. Hershey’s story.
Who Was Mrs. Hershey?
- Catherine Sweeney, whose nickname was “Kitty,” hailed from Jamestown, New York.
- Mr. Hershey met her while he was making a sales call at a candy store in New York.
- They were married in the rectory of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York in 1898.
- Kitty had a progressive neurological disease that was never fully diagnosed. She died in 1915 at the age of 42.
- The Hersheys had only been married for 17 years and did not have any children. Mr. Hershey never remarried.
The Milton Hershey School
- Mr. Hershey left almost his entire fortune to fund the Milton Hershey School.
- Founded by the Hersheys in 1909 as a home and school for orphan boys, the school today serves both boys and girls from more than 30 states, with 70 percent of the students coming from Pennsylvania.
- The school’s guiding legal document, the Deed of Trust, gives priority to children from its home county, Dauphin, and neighboring Lebanon and Lancaster counties, then to children from Pennsylvania. After the priority regions, the school then considers students from across the country. The school currently serves about 1,800 boys and girls in grades pre-kindergarten through 12. The School has more than 8,800 graduates who are productive citizens in cities and towns across the country.
- Meals, clothing, medical care, dental care and educational supplies are provided free of charge to enrolled students.
- Underclassmen live in family-like environment with a married couple—called “houseparents”—and other children their age in 143 student homes.
- Approximately 90 percent of the school’s graduates pursue post-high school education and take advantage of the school’s generous continuing education scholarship to do so.
- Before 1951, the School was known as the Hershey Industrial School.
- The school’s campus extends over 10,000 acres.
- Founders Hall features the second largest unsupported dome in the world. The largest is St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.
- The home the Hersheys built in town overlooks the original chocolate factory.
- High Point features 22 rooms and was constructed for just $53,433. It’s less ornate than some of the homes Mr. Hershey’s executives built for themselves.
- After Kitty died, Mr. Hershey moved into a suite of rooms on the second floor of the house and allowed the Country Club he created to use the remainder of the mansion as its clubhouse.
- Today High Point is home to the Hershey Trust Company.
- Mr. Hershey founded the park as a picnic and pleasure grounds, but today it has evolved into a world-class theme park.
- The oldest ride in the park is the Carrousel, which was built in 1919 and installed in Hershey in 1944.
- The Comet was built in 1946 and remains in its original location. It’s the park’s oldest roller coaster.
- Hersheypark is home to 11 roller coasters, more than can be found at any other park in Pennsylvania.
- The year 2010 marks the 100th anniversary of a zoo in Hershey.
- The first zookeeper was Franz Zinner, the man who first approached Mr. Hershey about starting a zoo when he learned that the entrepreneur was building a park.
- Hershey Zoo started with a colony of prairie dogs and a bear cub. ZooAmerica continues to be home to both of those species.
- The Zoo is home to 200 animals from North America. They represent 75 species and live on 11 acres.
Hershey’s Chocolate World
- This facility is America’s most visited corporate visitors center. Each year, nearly 3 million people take the free chocolate-making tour here to learn how chocolate goes from bean to bar.
- The facility opened in 1973. Since then, more than 75 million visitors have passed through its doors.
- Chocolate World is home to the world’s largest selection of Hershey’s products found anywhere.
The Hotel Hershey
- During the Great Depression, Mr. Hershey embarked on his “Great Building Campaign” in order to keep townspeople employed. It’s said that more than 600 people worked together to build the Hotel.
- The Hotel’s architect, D. Paul Witmer, received specific direction from Mr. Hershey about how to build the Hotel based on his own travel experiences and preferences.
- Mr. Hershey is reported to have said that if people dined alone or didn’t tip well, they were put in a corner. He didn’t want any corners in his restaurant; hence, the Hotel’s famed Circular Dining Room is literally shaped like a circle.
- The Hotel, which was constructed for about $2 million, celebrated its grand opening on May 26, 1933.
The Spa At The Hotel Hershey
- The design is based on that of High Point, the Hersheys’ home.
- The Spa opened in 2001; it expanded in 2004, nearly doubling in size from 17,000 square feet to 30,000.
- There are now 53 treatment rooms.
- The Spa is home to the signature Whipped Cocoa Bath, a rarity in that it’s a patented spa treatment.
- The Lodge is the largest private convention facility in Pennsylvania.
- The Lodge has hosted two bi-partisan Congressional retreats, in 1997 and 1999.
- The Lodge celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2007.
Hershey Country Club
- Ben Hogan was the golf professional at Hershey Country Club from 1941 to 1951.
- Henry Picard, who personally selected Hogan as his replacement, was the golf pro from 1934 to 1941. Both are members of the World Golf Hall of Fame.
- The fifth hole of the famed West Course features an incredible view of High Point.
- The Gardens opened in 1937 and stretch over 23 acres.
- There are 275 varieties of roses here on 7,000 bushes.
- Kitty’s rose garden from High Point was moved here.
- The Theatre was also constructed as part of Mr. Hershey’s “Great Building Campaign.”
- It features 1,904 seats.
- The Theatre’s fire curtain features a scene of Venice, with its Grand Canal slowly flowing past Doge’s Palace.
- Behind the French doors of the Theatre’s front balconies are concealed the more than 4,715 pipes and 25 bells of the historic Aeolian-Skinner organ.
- The Bears are the oldest continually operating franchise in the American Hockey League.
- The Bears were the 2009 and 2010 Calder Cup champions.
- The Bears have won 11 Calder Cup championships, more than any other team in the league.
- The Bears were originally called the “B’ars,” but they added the “E” when they were criticized for being too blatantly commercial.
- Dwight D. Eisenhower celebrated his 63rd birthday with a birthday party held at Hersheypark Arena on October 13, 1953.
- Wilt Chamberlain scored a record 100 points in a single basketball game at Hersheypark Arena on March 2, 1962.