When Milton S Hershey's chocolate factory opened in Hershey, Pennsylvania in 1905, it produced milk chocolate bars using mass production techniques that enabled his company to sell them for a nickel. Two years later, he introduced a product that has since become linked with the Hershey name - Hershey's Kisses.
Kisses also play an important role in the town of Hershey, Pennsylvania where the streetlights in the downtown are actually shaped like giant Hershey's Kisses.
In a brilliant bit of marketing, the streetlights alternate in appearance between Kisses wrapped in silver and unwrapped varieties. The idea is credited to the company president Sam Hinkle who convinced the town to go along with it in 1963. Since then it's not uncommon to see tourists blocking traffic to gawk at the streetlights or even snap a quick photo.
But what is a Hershey's Kiss?
The inch-high, bite-sized candy is round on the bottom roughly an inch in diameter and gradually tapers to a point. While it's not known exactly how Hershey's Kisses got their name, the popular theory is that the candy was named for the motion of the chocolate being deposited during the manufacturing process.
To make Hershey's Kisses, a blob of milk chocolate is deposited from a tube onto a moving stainless steel belt. The soft chocolate then moves through a cooling tunnel before it emerges as a solid product. Hershey Kisses then are machine-wrapped in aluminium foil.
Before Hershey's Kisses were wrapped by machines, dozens of women in the wrapping room did the job by hand. To hand-wrap the candy, the girls were required to lay a piece of tissue paper on a sheet of foil, place the candy on top and twist the wrapper. However, this process was too slow and difficult for workers who got paid by the piece, so whenever their supervisors weren't looking, the workers would lick the bottom of the candy, stick it a piece of tissue paper, place the whole thing on foil and twist.
Local legend tells that Fanny Hershey1 received a fresh box of Hershey's Kisses each day and wrapped them in her kitchen or on the front porch of her mansion across the street from the factory on East Chocolate Avenue.
The machines that replaced the girls in the wrapping room in 1921 bear a striking resemblance to the ones which today wrap 1300 Hershey's Kisses a minute. The company estimates that between the factory in Hershey and the one in Oakdale, California, about 33 million Hershey's Kisses are produced each day.
This small, bite-sized candy proved to be very popular. So much so that other chocolate companies began producing a similar product, including the Klein Chocolate Company in nearby Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania. However, some local chocolate buffs argue that Milton S Hershey stole the idea for his Kisses from the Wilbur Chocolate Company in Lititz, Pennsylvania. Wilbur Buds have been produced since 1894 and are very similar in shape to Kisses2 but more closely resemble flower buds.
To forge a unique identity for his products, Hershey registered the tissue plume extending out of the wrapper as trademark in 1924. The company trademarked the foil-wrapped shape of Hershey's Kisses in 1976. In the late 1970s, the company trademarked the name 'Hugs' to go along with its existing trademark on the name 'Kisses'.
In September 1990, the company thought they had found the candy to carry the name 'Hugs' with the introduction of Hershey's Kisses with Almonds. Despite the early success of the candy, the corporate brass decided to save the 'Hugs' name for something really special.
And three years later they got it. In 1993, the company launched the candy to bear the Hershey's Hugs name - a confection which is made of a tiny milk chocolate Hershey's Kisses hugged by white chocolate. Hershey's Hugs, and Hershey's Hugs with Almonds, are manufactured in the company's new Hershey West Plant on the opposite end of town from the original factory.
You can tell a lot about these candies by their wrappings. The original Hershey's Kisses still come in their silver foil packaging. Hershey's Kisses with Almonds are wrapped in golden foil wrappers and Hershey's Hugs come in striped wrappings.
The first time Hershey's Kisses were wrapped in foil other than silver was in 1962 when red, green and silver Kisses were sold during the Christmas season. Since then Hershey's Kisses have changed wrappers for Easter (pastel blue, pink and green), Valentine's Day (red and silver) and Halloween (browns and oranges).