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Episode 79: Pennsylvania: The Sweet History of Hershey with Sharon McMahon

podcast Jan 17, 2022

In this solo episode, Sharon sets her sights on the sweet life of Milton S. Hershey and his innovation in the world of chocolate. Today, the Hershey Company produces over a billion pounds of chocolate each year, but its origins are much more humble. Milton Hershey, armed with only four years of elementary education, spent decades learning and honing his chocolate-making craft. His hard work and business acumen led to the company’s rapid success, as well as the growth of an entire town and tourist destination. Hershey is one of the most recognizable and most philanthropic companies in the nation, and it all began on farmland in rural Pennsylvania.

Links to Full Episode:

This Episode Will Teach You:

  • Milton S. Hershey’s youth in rural Pennsylvania
  • His foray into candy making and first caramel candy business
  • How the World's Columbian Exposition changed his business trajectory
  • Milton’s marriage to Catherine “Kitty” Sweeny
  • The early success of the Hershey Chocolate Company
  • Hershey, PA, the unincorporated model town built for the company employees
  • The Hershey’s philanthropic endeavors
  • The Milton Hershey School, originally for orphan boys and it’s modern expansion
  • Milton’s death
  • Fun Facts about Hershey history, including Kisses, the front lines of WWII, outer space, and the Titanic

3 Biggest Takeaways:

  • Milton S. Hershey was born in rural Pennsylvania and grew up in a Mennonite community, speaking Pennsylvania Dutch in the home. He had a modest education, leaving school to work the family farm by the time he was ten. By 14, Milton started an apprenticeship at a print shop, but quickly moved on to apprenticing in a candy shop in Lancaster, PA. Throughout his early adulthood, Milton practiced his craft and eventually started his own candy business, the Lancaster Caramel Company.
  •  It wasn’t until 1893 that Milton set his sights on chocolate while watching a German chocolate making exhibit at the World’s Columbian Exposition. It took him another seven years to decide to sell his successful caramel business and purchase dairy acreage in PA to perfect his milk chocolate recipe. Hershey chocolate was beloved, and the company rapidly expanded. Mlton and his wife Kitty oversaw the creation of Hershey, PA, a model town with public transit, a hospital, a public school system and many opportunities for recreation. Hershey believed in providing a high quality of life for his employees.
  • Toward the twilight of his life, Milton turned over the majority of his fortune to the Hershey Trust, which is in charge of the Milton Hershey School, a boarding school for economically and socially disadvantaged children. The school is the majority shareholder in Hershey stock, making it the richest K-12 private school in the US. His legacy lives on through the company’s philanthropic work, and today, over a billion pounds of Hershey chocolate is made each year!

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