Milton S Hershey became fascinated with the German chocolate-making machinery on exhibit at the 1893 Columbian Exposition in Chicago. A successful candymaker, he bought the equipment for his Lancaster Caramel Company plant and soon began producing chocolate coatings for his candies. In addition to chocolate coatings, Hershey made breakfast cocoa, sweet chocolate and baking chocolate.
In 1900, Mr. Hershey sold the Lancaster Caramel Company for $1 million. However, he retained the chocolate manufacturing equipment and the rights to manufacture chocolate, including his famous 'nickel bar' of milk chocolate which sold for 5 cents apiece. Seeing the potential in mass-produced chocolate after the unveiling of the nickel bar in 1900, Hershey devoted himself to chocolate.
He returned to the place of his birth, the family homestead in the Township of Derry, and he began experimenting with methods to mass-produce milk chocolate. Derry Church, as it was then known, proved to be an ideal spot, located in the heart of Pennsylvania's dairy country, where he could obtain the large supplies of fresh milk needed to make his milk chocolate.
In 1903, still without a recipie capable of being mass produced, he began to build what was then the world's largest chcolate factory. The factory opened in 1905, and by 1907, the year the Hershey's Kiss was introduced, sales were aproaching $2 million.
As sales increased, the Hershey Chocolate Company narrowed its focus to concentrate on milk chocolates which could be sold nationwide for a nickel. In 1908 the Hershey Almond Bar was introduced.
Hershey and his wife Kitty founded the Hershey Industrial School in 1909 as a home and school for orphan boys. Now called Milton Hershey School, the 10,000-acre residental school provides education for nearly 1,100 children whose family lives have been disrupted. Through the Hershey Trust Company, the school owns about 30 percent of Hershey Foods' common stock, controls 76 percent of the corporation's voting shares, and is a direct beneficiary of Hershey Foods' success.
In 1916, Hershey secured his own sugar supply as sugar rationing during World War I cut into company profits and production. He purchased more than 65,000 sugar cane fields between Havana and the port of Matanzas on the northern coast of Cuba and founded a second company town between the two cities named 'Central Hershey'.
The Cuban town was designed to be an exact replica of Hershey, Pennsylvania. All the homes had running water and electricity and MS Hershey provided the town with a baseball diamond, a golf course, a racetrack and a country club for his workers. The town also had three raw sugar mills, four electric plants, a sugar refinery and more than 250 miles of railroad tracks. When a train accident on his railroad killed dozens of people and left many children orphaned, Hershey created the Hershey Agricultural School in 1925 which was based on the same model as the Hershey Industrial School back in Pennsylvania.
During this same time as operations were taking off in Cuba, Hershey introduced the Mr. Goodbar which is a milk chocolate bar impregnated with peanuts.
No longer able to run everything by himself, Hershey broke up the Hershey Chocolate Company in 1927, forming the Hershey Chocolate Corporation, which acquired the chocolate properties; the Hershey Corporation, which managed the sugar interests in Cuba; and the Hershey Estates, which absorbed the Hershey Improvement Company and looked after the welfare of the town in Pennsylvania.
The chocolate business thrived and so did the town MS Hershey built for his workers. A bank, department store, school, park, churches, zoo, a trolley system, and even individual homes were all built in rapid succession. Hershey started a second building boom during the Great Depression, when he built a magnificent hotel, a community building, golf courses, a sports arena, a sports stadium and a new office building for the chocolate factory.
In 1937, the Communist Party of Hershey convinces some workers at the chocolate factory to strike. Blah, blah, blah. Farmers invade the factory and 'restore order' with axe handles and pitchforks. Hershey is to be broken-hearted at the turn of events and retreats to his two rooms in his mansion rarely leaving to enjoy his town anymore.
Operations of Hershey Foods Corporation are concentrated in two divisions.
Hershey Chocolate North America is the nation's leading domestic producer of chocolate and non-chocolate confectionery products, as well as chocolate-related grocery products.
Hershey International oversees the corporation's international interests and exports to over 90 countries worldwide.