Most people would say that Henry was a complete failure. A loser. A disaster waiting to happen. A hopeless dreamer with ideas too big for his own good. His son, Milton, became one of the great American business success stories and his brand a household name. Nothing Henry tried ever worked. Henry jumped from big idea to big idea. Milton basically stuck to one thing.|
Did Milton find success despite his father or because of his father and the detours on the path to success that Henry caused?
Milton Snavely Hershey was born in 1857 in Hockersville, Pennsylvania. How his parents ever came to be married was a complete mystery to everyone. His mother, Fanny (Snavely), was the daughter of a Mennonite minister and believed in hard work, and plain ways in dress and speech. His father, Henry, was, also, raised a Mennonite, but her complete opposite. Henry was a dreamer and a risk taker.
They met when, Henry, working as a door to door traveling salesman called on Fanny�s farmhouse. Henry managed to keep the Hershey family broke through much of Milton�s childhood with one failed venture or scheme after another. They were always fighting and Fanny finally ran him off, but did not divorce him because that was against her religion. She claimed for years that she was a widow even though Henry was not dead.
His mother was against education and believed a good Mennonite boy should devote himself to farming. His father loved books, Shakespeare and science and persisted in getting Milton into school. Milton made it through the fourth grade, then dropped out.
When he was thirteen, his dad apprenticed him to a printer of a local German-English newspaper. Milton hated the job. He was completely lost and clumsy at the work and was fired after three months for dropping his straw hat in a printing press. He then apprenticed with a master candy maker, Joe Royer, in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. He liked candy and sweets and thought that might be something he would be interested in. It was there that he learned the basics of candy making.
In 1876, he moved to Philadelphia to start his own business to sell taffy to the crowds that would be coming to town for the Centennial. He borrowed the money from his uncle, Abraham Snavely, and brought in his mother and Aunt Mattie to help him.
They worked long and hard. They were starting to build a solid business until Milton�s father showed up. Henry Hershey pushed his son to think big and expand. He talked him into adding his idea for cough drops. Six months later the business went broke with Milton unable to pay his suppliers or debts.
Milton followed his father out west to work with him in a mining venture that proved to be a disaster. He went to work for a candy maker in Denver.
At that time, caramel was mixed with paraffin to make it chewy. The candy maker he worked for had figured out that mixing it with fresh milk made better candy. This was an idea he took with him to other ventures in Chicago and New York.
He went into business with his father in Chicago making candy. Of course, anything his father became involved in was doomed to failure. Milton and his father parted ways. Next stop was New Orleans and then New York.
Milton tried again with another candy store in the middle of Manhattan. Once again, his father showed up, influenced him into expanding too fast and soon he was broke.
He returned home in 1886, penniless and unable to pay to have his things shipped back with him. His relatives would not take him in and told him that they considered him nothing but an irresponsible drifter.
His friend, William Henry Lebkicher, who worked with Milton in Philadelphia, paid to have his belongings shipped and helped him get started once again.
Milton had managed to hold onto a couple of copper kettles and a marble slab and began making caramels out of his mother�s kitchen. Milton made the candy and his mother and sister wrapped them in tissue paper. Milton went out and sold the caramels on the street. His caramels became extremely popular and soon he bought a pushcart so he could sell them in a wider area. He had trouble growing the business because his relatives and banks would not loan him any money.
Milton�s big break came in 1887 when a visiting Englishman took a liking to his caramels. He offered to sell Milton�s Crystal �A� in London if he could produce enough to make it worthwhile.
He went to the Lancaster National Bank seeking a $700 loan. His aunt backed the loan with her house (worth about $1500). Milton got a ninety day loan, but when the note came due, he had not finished production and had to tell the banker that he couldn�t pay. He asked the banker to come and take a look at his operation. The banker was so impressed with Milton�s drive and sincerity that he renewed the note plus extended another $1000 in credit. The banker put his own endorsement on the loan to keep from angering his bosses. Ten days before the note came due, Milton was paid by his London distributor and he rushed to the bank in his apron to retire the loan. From that day forward the business never stopped growing. The Lancaster Caramel Company soon had a factory covering 450,000 square feet and $1 million a year sales. The company produced hundreds of varieties of caramels and sold them around the world. Milton Hershey finally had become a wealthy and successful man.
In 1890, he bought his mother a house. He left others in charge of running the company and he began traveling the world.
Milton loved gadgets and inventions. That is what brought him to the 1893 Columbia Exposition in Chicago. The Exposition was a forerunner of the world�s fair and featured the newest wonders of the world including the first Ferris wheel. Milton found himself transfixed by the booth in the back of industrial machine exhibits.
It was the first time he had ever seen chocolate being made. The machines made by J.M. Lehman, a German company, roasted cocoa beans in rotating ovens, then the beans were hulled and ground between granite rollers and turned into chocolate liquor. Sugar, vanilla and additional Cocoa butter were added to the chocolate liquor and then it was mixed and churned into a silky paste, which was poured into square molds and hardened into bars.
He was thirty-six years old and not looking for new opportunities. He was satisfied that he had more money than he would ever need, and was more interested in traveling the world.
He was so taken by the chocolate making equipment that he bought Lehman�s entire display and had it shipped back to his factory in Lancaster, Pennsylvania after the Exposition closed.
At that time, most Americans had never tasted chocolate. Hershey had used cocoa powder in some of his fancier caramels and there were about a half dozen small chocolate companies in the United States. Most chocolate had been served, until that time, mostly to royalty as a bitter drink. He was starting his new business on the ground floor, and instinctively knew it would become the next big thing in candy.
Hershey installed the equipment into the third floor of his factory and started experimenting. Milton Hershey was never interested in the sales or management or even profits of his business. His interest was the product and experimenting and inventing and improving it. He started working on a way to mix fresh milk with chocolate like he did with caramel.
Milton Hershey married a 26 year old red haired Irish-Catholic girl named Kitty in 1898. Milton was devoted to her and they traveled the world together.
That same year he bought his father the house he grew up in.
Milton Hershey sold Lancaster Caramel Company to his competitors in 1900 for the astounding sum of $1 million. He retained the rights to the chocolate business and decided to build a factory and a town near the area he was born in central Pennsylvania. He broke ground on the factory in 1903 and it was completed in 1905. He named the town Hershey and built a street car line, a hospital, school, and a park; all for the benefit of his workers. Today, the streets are lined with streetlights that look like Hershey�s Kisses.
Milton created the �nickel� candy bar. The cost of Hershey bar remained five cents for many years, although the size would fluctuate depending on the price of chocolate.
The Hershey�s Kiss started production in 1907. It is speculated that it was named after the sound the machinery made while producing the candy. Each piece was wrapped in aluminum foil by hand until a machine was invented in the 1920s.
Each day a batch of Hershey�s Kisses was taken from the factory to Fanny Hershey�s house. Milton�s mother would sit at her kitchen table and wrap them by hand like she had when he had first started his caramel business.
Hershey became the primary supplier of refined chocolate in the United States. It was the main wholesale supplier to other chocolatiers including Mars.
Milton and Kitty never had children. In 1909, he started a school for orphans- the Hershey Industrial School.
He gave most of his stock to the foundation that funded the school. The school is still the Hershey companies largest shareholder.
Milton Hershey died in 1945 at the age of 88, leaving the world a much sweeter place because of his persistence and a combination of the dreamer and gambler in him from his father and the work ethic from his mother.