Milton S. Hershey
Founder of The Hershey Foods Corp.
"Give them quality. That's the best kind of advertising in the world."-Milton S. Hershey
During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, a time when ruthless businesspeople created empires of steel, oil and railroads on the backs of a hapless rural population forced into grim factory towns, Milton S. Hershey followed a different path to success. Unlike Carnegie, Rockefeller, Vanderbilt and the other cold-blooded "robber-barons" who offered their workers callous treatment and back-breaking labor for menial wages, Hershey offered his employees dignity and prosperity, inspiring bounteous love and loyalty in his workers and making himself wildly rich in the process.
Even so, Hershey's path to sweet success was fraught with obstacles and setbacks that would have crushed lesser men. But through perseverance, ingenuity and his amazing ability to bounce back from failure, he built one of the great American fortunes from the ground up and brought joy to millions with a beneficent wonder that would immortalize his name¬-Hershey's Chocolate.
Hershey began his candy-making career at age 15 when he was apprenticed to Lancaster, Pennsylvania, confectioner Joseph H. Royer. Hershey blossomed under Royer's tutelage, acquiring many of the skills and tools he would later use to build his own empire.
In 1876, with $100 he'd borrowed from his aunt, Hershey opened his first candy shop in Philadelphia. For six years he worked day and night to keep the business alive. Working 15 to 16 hours a day, Hershey would make caramels and taffies at night, then sell them from a pushcart to crowds at the Great Centennial Exposition, which was being held to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence. But in February 1882, after a winter dogged by illness and mounting debt, Hershey sold the business and headed to Denver to join his father in the great Colorado silver rush.
Surprisingly, the riches Hershey found in Colorado came not from the ground, but from a cow. While working for a confectioner in Denver, Hershey learned that adding fresh milk to caramel greatly improved its quality and extended the candy's shelf life-a discovery that would be crucial in later years.
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Hershey left Denver for Chicago, where he started another candy shop. But failure continued to haunt him, and the venture quickly fell through. After a similar experience in New Orleans, Hershey headed to New York City and opened yet another store. Despite his best efforts, the company continually lost money. When a group of kids stampeded his delivery wagon and made off with his entire stock, Hershey was bankrupt.
Hershey returned to Lancaster to find that his relatives had given up on him, refusing even to take him in, let alone lend him money to start another business. But Hershey would soon find salvation in the form of an old friend and employee.
Henry Lebkicher, who had briefly worked for Hershey in his Philadelphia store, not only offered Hershey a place to live, but also lent him the money he needed to bring his candy-making equipment from New York. The pair then scraped together enough capital to start the business that would firmly establish Milton Hershey as a candy-maker-the Lancaster Caramel Co.
Drawing from his experiences in Denver, Hershey began experimenting with using fresh milk in the candy-making process and created a unique confection he called "Hershey's Crystal A" caramels. Impressed with the quality and shipping stability of Hershey's new, chewy milk-based caramels, an English importer placed a large candy order, enabling Hershey to secure a $250,000 loan with which he quickly began expanding his business.