Milton Hershey was born in 1857 on a farm outside of Derry Church, Pennsylvania. He spent many of his early years trailing around after his father who, by all accounts, was something of a dreamer – always on the lookout for the next big opportunity but lacking the perseverance to stick anything out. By the time Milton was ten, his father was out of the picture and his upbringing was taken over by his strict Mennonite mother, Fanny, who instilled in her son the importance and value of hard work.
After dropping out of school at the age of fourteen, Hershey expressed interest in candy making and became an apprentice to a confectioner in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Four years later, Hershey borrowed some money and set up his own candy store. Despite working hard and pouring everything he had into the business it was not a success, so he sold up and headed west, reuniting with his father in Colorado. Here he learned about caramel and how it can be made with fresh milk. This became his new obsession. He started businesses in Chicago and then New York but both failed.
Hershey returned to Lancaster still convinced he could run a successful candy company. He started the Lancaster Caramel Company and finally success was his. Soon he was shipping his caramels all over the world.
At an exposition in Chicago in 1893, Hershey was introduced to the art of chocolate making and he was hooked. He was particularly interested in milk chocolate, which was seen as a delicacy and something only the Swiss could make. Hershey was determined to find a way to mass produce and distribute milk chocolate candy.
In 1900, Hershey sold his caramel company for a staggering one million dollars. Three years later he began construction on a huge, modern candy-making factory near Derry Church. As the Hershey Chocolate company flourished, Hershey began to create a model community in his home town. He built schools, parks, churches, housing for his employees, and the town that sprung up around the factory became known as Hershey, Pennsylvania.
We made a quick visit to Hershey last Thursday evening. It was very much a visit for Olive and Edie – neither Richard or I are fans of Hershey chocolate. Quite frankly it’s not a patch on a block of good old kiwi Whittaker’s and after consuming a fair amount of Belgian chocolate in Antwerp, it kind of ruins you for anything else! We stayed a night in the big old Hershey hotel (I was handed room keys and four blocks of chocolate!) and then spent Friday morning making our own chocolate bars and having our minds boggled by the size of both the Hershey store itself and the bars of chocolate in it!!
There is an amusement park in Hershey too but…alas…it hadn’t yet opened for the summer season. The girls were quite happy with their personalised blocks of chocolate and Richard and I were very happy that we can now cross Hershey off our to do list!
From Hershey we headed to Gettysburg, where we had a fascinating time, about which I’ll write later!
And for those of you who are interested I’ve done a very long overdue update on what the girls and I are reading at the moment.
Take care everyone – sending all our love xxx