Hershey : Milton S. Hershey's Extraordinary Life of Wealth, Empire, and Utopian Dreams
THIS BOOK IS NEITHER LICENSED NOR SPONSORED BY THE HERSHEY COMPANY.
Hershey. The name means chocolate to America and the world, but as Michael D'Antonio reveals, it also stands for an inspiring man and a uniquely successful experiment in community and capitalism that produced a business empire devoted to a higher purpose.
One of the twentieth century's most eccentric and idealistic titans of industry, Milton S. Hershey brought affordable milk chocolate to America, creating and then satisfying the chocoholic urges of millions. He pioneered techniques of branding, mass production, and marketing, and gained widespread fame as the Chocolate King.
But as he developed massive factories, Cuban sugar plantations, and a vacation wonderland called Hershey Park, M.S. never lost sight of a grander goal. Determined that his wealth produce a lasting legacy, he tried to create perfect places where his workers could live, perfect schools for their children, and a perfect charity to salvage the lives of needy children in perpetuity. Along the way, he overcame his personal childhood traumas, as well as the death, after a short and intensely romantic marriage, of the one woman he ever loved.
In childhood, Milton was torn by the constant conflicts between his stern mother and starry-eyed father. He watched his father go bust in the oil fields and his sister die of scarlet fever. As a young man he failed with businesses in Philadelphia, New York, and Chicago. Milton finally succeeded in Lancaster, thanks to a caramel recipe copied from another confectioner and a lucky break provided by a British importer. Then, at the history-shaping Columbian Exhibition, Milton found the chocolate-making technology that would allow him to bring a new taste to America. When they heard about his plan to build a chocolate empire complete with its own little city in rural Pennsylvania, his friends said he needed a legal guardian.
Ten years later, Milton controlled the U.S. chocolate market, and his town, Hershey, Pennsylvania, was the ideal American village. Factory workers lived in graceful homes. Their children attended the best schools. Local parks, libraries, and theaters rivaled the best in big cities. Trains brought thousands of tourists every day, who flocked to see the miracle town, the Hershey zoo, and an enormous amusement park.
Not content with these accomplishments, a childless M.S. Hershey founded an orphanage for boys at his family homestead. After his wife Catherine's death, the press revealed that he had secretly willed his entire estate to the Hershey Industrial School, as it was called. This was only the beginning of his giving. Through the Great Depression, Milton Hershey used his fortune to fund a massive building program that kept all his workers employed and spared the community the real hardships of the era. Before he died, he even gave away his mansion, keeping just two rooms for himself.
Remarkable as Hershey was, his legacy is even more powerful. It includes the $8 billion Hershey Trust (the single largest private fund for children in the world), an idyllic company town in central Pennsylvania, and a corporation that proves that the ideals of community and commerce can lead to profit.
This first-ever, major biography of an American icon paints a vivid picture of what Milton S. Hershey accomplished as the ultimate progressive businessman. Hershey's life suggests a kind of capitalism that seems warmer, and more personal. He was a gambler, raconteur, despot, and servant. And he stands as a rare, and perhaps unique, example of ambition, altruism, ego, and humility.
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Simon & Schuster
January 01, 2006
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Excerpt from Hershey by Michael D'Antonio
Tall and lean with a lush black beard, Henry Hershey liked to dress in silk and often carried a gold-capped walking stick. He had a way with women. There was Mattie Snavely, whom he had courted for a moment. And there was a woman in Harrisburg, who had believed that Henry was going to be her husband. But finally he chose Mattie's sister. Veronica Snavely was a short, round-shouldered woman. Known as Fanny, on the surface at least, she was his opposite in almost every way.
Maybe that was the point. As the first true romantic Fanny ever met, Henry could express everything she repressed. Ambitious to a fault, he saw himself as a dramatic figure destined to do great things. He was so independent that he could walk away from the Mennonite faith and his community without showing a single sign of self-doubt. Lack of formal education prevented him from becoming a writer--his first and greatest ambition--but he still impressed others as a sophisticated, even artistic man. He dressed better than most, spoke more eloquently, and laughed more, too.
Fanny had been raised in a prominent but insular family of conservative preachers and hardworking farmers in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Her ancestors had been among the wealthier Swiss emigrants to flee religious persecution for the New World in the 1700s. They found in this patch of Pennsylvania a land with fertile green hills and mild weather that resembled the best farmland in their mother country.