It seems we have established the following tradition:
That a trip out to the 21st Century Cyber Charter School building necessitates a stop in Hershey, PA.
And whether that tradition was ever our original intention or not, it now seems that with the first whiff of chocolate rolling off the Hershey exit of the turnpike, the van has a mind of its own, pulling us toward the milk chocolate heaven known as Hershey, PA.
It seems we can’t travel east without a visit of some sort to the “sweetest place on earth.”
This time, however, we made the conscious decision to visit this charming town in a more deliberate way.
This time we had a day to spare and decided to visit The Hershey Story museum…
And we are so glad we did.
I have been an admirer of Milton Hershey ever since I learned that there was so much more to this man than the business he is known for. I found myself sucked into his story the more I read about him and felt a draw to his town and his story based largely on the great man of character and goodness he was.
His story is an example we can all learn from and someone I can hold up to my children as an example of a man who found success in more lasting and impactful ways than simply the millions he earned.
His is a story of diligence, hard work, perseverance, vision, service and giving back to his community. His is a story that I can be inspired by, so I was looking forward to vising The Hershey Story museum which delves more into the life of Milton Hershey and his achievements, aspects of the story that are often lost in the commercialism of Chocolate World.
The second story of the museum is dedicated to telling Milton Hershey’s story from the struggles of his childhood through the final years of his life.
Here is a taste of what we learned about Mr. Hershey:
(Taken from “The Man Behind the Chocolate Bar”)
Milton S. Hershey
The Man Behind the Chocolate Bar
I Was a Poor Boy Myself Once
The memories of what it was like to have been a poor boy stayed with Milton Hershey throughout his life. They influenced him strongly when he later founded a school for needy children.
Milton S. Hershey was born Sept. 13, 1857, shortly before the American Civil War on a farm in Central Pennsylvania. Like most of the people whom he knew, he was the descendant of people who had come to Pennsylvania from Switzerland and Germany in the 1700s. He grew up speaking the “Pennsylvania Dutch” dialect and inherited from these people characteristics such as a zest for hard work, diligence, and thriftiness.
The First Million Is the Hardest
At first it seemed that Milton Hershey had no talents for business. He failed at numerous ventures before he finally succeeded at making caramel candy. By then he was almost forty years old.
But Milton was ambitious, and in 1876, decided to move to Philadelphia where celebrations of the 100th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence were taking place. Hoping to cash in on the money that people would bring to the Centennial, he set himself up in the candy and confectioner’s business. Hershey borrowed considerable sums of money from his Uncle Abraham Snavely and printed elaborate business cards and stationery to advertise himself. He brought his mother and his Aunt Mattie to Philadelphia to help him. But though they all worked terribly hard, Milton was never able to make enough money to pay either his suppliers or his debts.
Hershey was persistent, however, and having failed in Philadelphia, went off to seek his fortune in Denver, New York, Chicago, and even New Orleans. He had no more success in any of these places but he did come back with one important thing: the knowledge, learned from a candymaker in Denver, that fresh milk makes good candy.
This was the secret that would make his fortune but for the moment, in 1886, he was penniless. He went back to Lancaster but did not even have the money to have his possessions shipped after him. When he walked out to his uncle’s farm, he found himself shunned as an irresponsible drifter by most of his relatives.
This time, though, fortune finally smiled on Mr. Hershey. William Henry Lebkicher, who had worked for Hershey in Philadelphia, stored his things and helped him pay the shipping charges. Aunt Mattie and his mother began once again to help him and Milton started experiments which led to the recipe for “Hershey’s Crystal A” a “melt in your mouth” caramel candy made with milk.
The Lancaster Caramel Company
A large order from an English candy importer led Hershey to ask the Lancaster National Bank for a loan. The bank’s cashier was so impressed by Hershey that he lent him the money, backing the loan with his own signature. When the Englishman actually paid for the goods with a check for 500 English pounds, Hershey was so excited that he ran down the street to the bank with his apron still on.
The success of his caramel business enabled Mr. Hershey, for the first time in his life, to spend money for his own pleasure. While he was never ostentatious, he clearly had a longing and a taste for beauty and elegance. He always enjoyed being able to spend money when and how he pleased. “It’s my money,” he would say in later years if anyone raised a question.
I’m Going to Make Chocolate
Caramels gave Mr. Hershey his first million, but chocolate gave him his real fortune. His first taste of it came on a visit to the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago, where he became fascinated by a set of German chocolate-making machinery. Hershey bought the equipment and had it installed in Lancaster where he began producing his own chocolate, 114 varieties in all.
By the late 1800’s, Hershey, who was now aware of the growing market for chocolate, was convinced that his future lay in producing it rather than caramels. In 1900, he sold his Lancaster Caramel Company to competitors for $1 million (a sum which was then worth considerably more than now) and began to devote all his energies to making chocolate.
His search for the perfect site to build a complete chocolate factory led Hershey back to Derry Township. He had already repurchased the house where he had been born for his father. Now he was convinced that the Central Pennsylvania countryside would provide everything he needed for a factory: a plentiful water supply, fresh milk, and industrious workers. Ground was broken in 1903 and by 1905 the new factory was completed.
His Legacy Continues
Business is a Matter of Human Service
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.
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.
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 characteristic 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.”
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.
It was a fascinating museum.
Some of our favorite exhibits included the Titanic ticket on display that was purchased by Milton Hershey but never used due to his wife getting ill and their plans having to be refigured.
We also enjoyed seeing the original Hershey Kiss machine on display.
There was also an area where the kids could design their own packaging for the Hershey Bar.
I most enjoyed reading about Milton Hershey’s philanthropic work, especially the school he opened for orphans that is still running and helping youth today. I think it touched me most because the children benefiting from Milton Hershey’s generosity are kids with stories much like my boys’ stories… kids that just need a chance.
When we were done touring the second floor we headed downstairs to the first floor where there was a hand-on area. Here we were able to try our hand at working for Mr. Hershey in a variety of different capacities that would have been career opportunities during the early 20th century.
As “new hires,” guests will try different jobs throughout the factory. Be sure to not burn the cocoa beans in the roasting department! Push Hershey’s famed bathtub trucks in the refining area. In the “knock-out” area, you’ll remove bars from molds without damaging the chocolate. Weigh boxes of Kisses, pack bars into boxes and fill customer orders in the finishing department. Once training is complete, guests will receive their final job assignments.
Here the kids got to apprentice as a roaster:
A “knock out” employee:
Or a wrapper:
This was a fun area even for my overgrown kiddos.
Then came the grand finale of the visit!!
We ended with:
Sample Flights of Warm Drinking Chocolates From Around the World
From fruity African chocolate flavors to Indonesian chocolate with caramel overtones, come hone your skills as a cocoa connoisseur… or simply enjoy a taste of indulgence. Tastings at The Hershey Story is a treat for your taste buds and the perfect way to immerse yourself in the sweet world that inspired Milton Hershey.
This was so much fun. In the tasting center café they offer a tasting experience of six drinking chocolates from across the world.
After sitting down we were brought our six shot glasses of chocolate from six different regions of the world. We also received a reference sheet that gave information about each chocolate, explained how dark the chocolate was, and what notes of flavor could be found in each tasting sample.
We were instructed to begin with the most bitter chocolate and work our way towards the more milk chocolate samples, ending with the Hershey blend.
It was neat to taste the distinctly different flavors of cocoa beans from around the world and we found the printed description to be spot on with our tastings.
In the end everyone had a favorite.
Rusty favored Java, an Indonesian bean with a sweet rich flavor that hinted of caramel.
Gracie favored Venezuela, a more bitter chocolate with woody flavors and notes of black olive.
Molly favored Ghana’s beans (which happens to be the #1 bean choice for chocolatiers.) This sweet, chestnut flavored bean had a fruity undertone.
My favorite drinking chocolate came from Mexico. This bitter and slightly acidic chocolate had notes of black licorice.
We ended our tasting with the smooth, buttery chocolate of Hershey, toasting the man who made this memorable experience possible.
Thank you, Milton Hershey!