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Milton Hershey – a name familiar to the public due to his famous chocolate plant as well as the city named after him, Hershey, Pennsylvania; his factory still stands today, along with the utopian community he created. His works include the milk chocolate Hershey Bar, as well as the Hershey Kiss. Even one of the first cars advertised for his company. Throughout his life, though, he did not succeed right away. He even reached a point where his own family no longer believed in him. Despite it all, he worked his way up to his famous reputation known today, while, unlike most wealthy people, investing his gains into the good of society.
On September 13, 1857, Milton Hershey was born. He and his parents lived on a farm in Derry Township, central Transilvania. During his early years, he did not acquire much education. His father often opened new businesses, like cough drop manufacturer or farming, which had the family moving around quite often. Due to these frequent moves, Milton dropped out of school after the fourth grade. Shortly afterward, his entrepreneurial spirit, like his father’s, started to show as he began his career path. Milton began his first job at age 14, as an apprentice for a German-American newspaper in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Soon after, though, he was fired because he dropped a tray of type for the printer he had been working with. His mother thereafter found him another apprenticeship. Working for Joseph H. Royer, Milton’s candy-making journey began. From 1872 to 1876, he learned the skills that would later be of great value to him.
Once he turned, he decided to part ways Royer. With $100 borrowed from his aunt, he started his own candy shop in Philadelphia. His new business was difficult to keep afloat. He labored up 16 hours a day. With the help of his mother and aunt, he made caramels and taffies throughout the night and selling them at the Great Centennial Exposition during the day, having only a pushcart to do so. There, he hoped to find eager crowds in town, celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Declaration of independence. After six years, he collapsed from exhaustion. The winter of 1882 was filled with illness and debt; therefore, he was finally forced to accept failure and sold his business. From there, he made his way to Denver to join his father, where he joined him in partaking in the great Colorado silver rush. Milton did not give up after his failure. In Denver, Colorado, he started working for another candy company. There, he learned how fresh milk can improve the quality of his chocolate. He opened a new business, working alongside his father, in Chicago. It turned out to be yet another failure. Still unwilling to give up, Milton decided to move to New York in early 1883.
At this new business, he manufactured Hershey’s Fine Candies. Regrettably, the sugar prices heightened, and his delivery wagon was stolen. Milton was left bankrupt once again. He returned back to Lancaster, Pennsylvania, in 1885. After seeing his continuous failures, his aunt and uncle refused to loan Milton any more money, or even take him in. Milton went on to partner with a man he hired in Philadelphia, Henry Lebkicher. With a new place to stay and all the money they could get together, they started the Lancaster Caramel Company. Milton devised a new formula containing fresh milk, using what he learned in his previous job. He created “Hershey’s Crystal A” caramels. Finally, he had succeeded. A buyer in England ordered $2,500 worth of caramels to be shipped to him. With new hope, Milton borrowed $250,000 from Importers and Traders Bank of New York City and expanded his company.
He created more and more candy, such as The Jim Cracks, Roly Polies, Melbas, and Empires. His plant grew; in 1893, the Lancaster Caramel Company was open in Mount Joy, Pennsylvania, Chicago, and Geneva, Illinois. Altogether, the company employed 1,400 people. When the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus’s arrival in New York came, Milton took advantage of the opportunity to go to Chicago for the World’s Columbian Exposition to study the way Europeans made chocolate. He was particularly interested in chocolate-rolling machinery, belonging to the J.M. Lehman Company of Dresden, Germany. After further examining it, he decided to buy it for the use of his own company. His new goal was to produce a mass amount of milk chocolate, which was considered a luxury at the time, so that it would satisfy the demand of the majority.
Pursuing this vision, Milton opened the Hershey Chocolate Company in 1897 on the Derry Church homestead he purchased. He intended to give it to his parents but then changed his mind to build on it. He started producing baking chocolate, breakfast cocoa, and even sweet chocolate coatings for his own caramels. With time, he was able to perfect his recipe and went on to produce 114 different types of chocolate. These included innovative items such as chocolate bicycles and chocolate cigars. Milton decided he wanted to focus solely on the chocolate-making business; therefore, he sold the Lancaster Caramel Company for $1 million to his competitor, the American Caramel Company, in 1900. He did keep exclusive rights, however, to supply his own dipping chocolate to the company. From the money he gained from this business arrangement, he built another chocolate factory.
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