Milton S. Hershey – A Short Biography

A portrait of Milton S. Hershey.

If you’re like the rest of the world, you love chocolate.

It’s difficult to describe the joy that comes from something so comforting and delicious and how it melts in your mouth.

Let’s talk about the man who aided the boom in chocolate consumption in the United States.

Who Is Milton Hershey?

In the 1800s, mass chocolate consumption hit America. And the demand for this derivative of the cacao fruit hasn’t dropped since.

Hershey’s is a brand most know and love, and Milton Hershey is the figure behind its success.

Birth and Early Years

Milton Hershey was born on September 13th, 1857, in Derry Township (or Derry Church, according to some sources), Pennsylvania.

His parents were Henry and Veronica “Fanny” (née Snavely) Hershey. They were Mennonites of Swiss and German descent, and Milton grew up speaking Pennsylvania Dutch.

He had one sibling, a sister named Sarena, who died at a young age.


Milton Hershey helped his family out on the farm and learned the value of hard work through it. He didn’t have a chance to experience a proper education.

He only completed fourth grade and left school for good in 1871.


At age 14, Milton started as an apprentice at a local printer. He wasn’t interested in the job, and it didn’t last long.

His aunt, Mattie Snavely, and his mother suggested that he learn how to make candy.

That marked the start of his apprenticeship with confectioner Joseph Royer in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

His stint lasted four years, and in 1876, he was ready to start his first confectionary business in Philadelphia. The company ended in bankruptcy.

In 1882, Milton went to Denver to work at local confectioners and learned the art of making caramels with milk.

After that, he traveled to New Orleans, Chicago, and New York. He started a few other businesses, all of which failed.

“My Best Advice to You Is – When You Tackle a Job Stick to It Until You Have Mastered It.” – Milton Hershey

Lancaster Caramel Company

In 1883, Milton returned to Lancaster. There he initially sold homemade caramels. Three years later, he founded the Lancaster Caramel Company.

Thanks to the knowledge and experience from his travels, Milton’s caramel candies became very popular.

An Englishman helped Milton pay off his bank loan when he placed a big order. The purchase brought him the money for more ingredients and equipment.

The Lancaster Caramel Company continued growing, and by the early 1890s, it had 1,300 workers and two factories.

In 1893, he visited the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago and became interested in chocolate.

He decided to take a risk, so he sold his company in 1900 for $1 million to start his new business venture.

“You Can Only Make Money by Giving People What They Want.” – Milton Hershey

The Hershey Chocolate Company

In 1894, while Milton’s caramel business was booming, he started the Hershey Chocolate Company. Within a year, he was making his own chocolate.

Milton used the proceeds from his company’s sale to acquire farmland northwest of Lancaster.

He wanted a steady supply of fresh milk as he loved the idea of producing fine milk chocolate, a luxury product at the time.

Milton, through trial and error, came up with his own formula. In 1900, he produced the first Hershey bar.

Risking it all in 1903, Milton started building what was to be the world’s largest chocolate factory.

The plant was completed in 1905, and it boasted modern mass-production techniques. The Hershey Chocolate Company was a great success, even more so when Milton introduced the Hershey Kiss in 1907.

“It Requires the Cooperation of Every Player on a Team To Win a Game.” – Milton Hershey

Charitable Deeds

Hershey was a man of the people.

He wanted to create a model community around his factory, complete with comfortable homes, an affordable public transportation system, quality public schools, and recreational and cultural programs. And that is what he did. This town became known as Hershey, Pennsylvania.

Hershey and his wife were unable to have children, so they decided to help orphaned boys. In 1909, they founded the Hershey Industrial School (known as Milton Hershey School today).

Milton treated the hard times of his past as inspiration. He wanted to spare the children as much pain as possible and equip them with lifelong skills. In 1935, he established the M.S. Hershey Foundation.

“My Success Is the Result of Not Being Satisfied With Mediocrity, and in Making the Most of My Opportunities.”- Milton Hershey

Personal Life

Hershey married Catherine Elizabeth “Kitty” Sweeney on May 25th, 1898.

They did not have children, which led to the creation of the Hershey Industrial School. His wife died in 1918. After that, Hershey transferred the bulk of his wealth to the Hershey Trust, which funds the school.

Later Years and Death

Hershey never remarried after his wife’s death. He continued working well into his 80s and died in Hershey, Pennsylvania, on October 13th, 1945.

He was buried next to his wife at Hershey Cemetary, which he built.

“If I Can Make Money for My Employer, Why Can’t I Do Just As Well for Myself?” – Milton Hershey


If there ever were a real-life Willy Wonka, it would be Milton Snavely Hershey. From a very young age, he devoted his life to sweet goodies, and ended up building the world’s largest chocolate plant at the time.

He didn’t just chase profits but also wanted to give his workers a good life. His living memorial is the community he founded more than a century ago.

Timeline.Milton Hershey Timeline


Milton Hershey is born on September 13th in Pennsylvania.


Milton leaves school for good and starts his apprenticeship at a confectionery.


Milton ends his apprenticeship and moves to Philadelphia to start his first confectionery business, which fails.


Milton goes to Denver to learn about making caramels with fresh milk.


Milton returns to Lancaster and sells homemade caramels.


Milton founds the Lancaster Caramel Company.


Milton attends the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago and builds his interest in chocolate.


Milton establishes the Hershey Chocolate Company.


Hershey marries Catherine Elizabeth “Kitty” Sweeney on May 25th.


Milton sells the Lancaster Caramel Company for $1 million. He comes up with his own formula for milk chocolate and makes the first Hershey bar.


Milton starts constructing his chocolate factory.


Milton introduces the Hershey Kiss.


Milton and his wife establish the Hershey Industrial School.


Milton establishes the M.S. Hershey Foundation.


Milton dies in Hershey, Pennsylvania, on October 13th.

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Lessons We Can Learn From Milton Hershey

Milton Hershey was a hardworking individual, and from his experiences, there are lessons to be learned.

I have selected two lessons we can look at based on two quotes by Hershey that appealed to me.

Quote number one by Milton Hershey, “My Best Advice to You Is – When You Tackle a Job, Stick to It Until You Have Mastered It.”

Have you ever finished an unsatisfactory project and wished you could start from scratch? I certainly have. Giving an important project your best effort is preferable to rushing through it because you want to finish.

In many cases, the time and effort it takes to put together a mediocre and a superior process are similar. Going the extra mile just takes more time and effort.

Think of the process as a flight of stairs in a high-rise building. The levels are optional but the higher you go, the better the results.

For example, you could stop on the first floor or take it further by going to the second floor and climbing until you have the results you are happy with.

Creating something you have rushed through and must redo will be slower than setting your sights on creating the quality you want from the beginning.

Many projects require you to put in the effort and then redo a lot of your work.

Not because you didn’t do your best but because you did the best you could with the resources you had at the time, and then you found a better solution or more resources and information later.

It’s like going to the next flight of stairs to take the process to the next level, and it’s part of the development process.

Milton Hershey stated in his quote to stick to it until you master it.

When you master a task, you can create something new and valuable while building your skillset.

Quote number two by Milton Hershey, “You Can Only Make Money by Giving People What They Want.”

To succeed in business, you have to give people what they want.

Although many people develop products and services that they find valuable but don’t realize that no one wants what they have to offer, yet they keep pushing and trying to succeed with something with little demand.

You will have a higher chance of success if you pursue something people want.

A war pilot was honored for taking out many planes by himself during a battle.

During an interview, he was asked how he was so successful, and he answered it was simple: I shot the planes as they were parked on the runway.

In business, finding easy targets is important, and one of the easiest targets is to sell products and services people want instead of trying to sell something they don’t want.

As another point, focus on improving the products and services people want, you could gain a competitive edge since the product is already popular and you have improved it.

Frequently Asked Questions

The information in this post answers many of the questions about Milton Hershey. This section provides a summary and any additional information.

1. What was Milton Hershey’s childhood like?

Milton Hershey experienced strict discipline according to the Mennonite faith when he grew up.

His father moved the family around often. As a result, Milton received little formal education.

2. How did Milton Hershey change the world?

Aside from starting one of the largest chocolate companies in the world, Milton also wanted the surrounding community to flourish.

He built a model down and donated much of his wealth for the betterment of his founded town.

3. Did Milton Hershey have a family?

Milton and his wife never had children.

4. How did Milton Hershey treat his workers?

Milton was a forward-thinking employer. He believed that better living conditions would make his workers more productive.

That resulted in the community and town he developed.

5. What did Milton Hershey struggle with?

Milton did not experience success right off the bat. He launched a few failed businesses (which gave him bad credit) before tasting success.

6. What made Hershey so successful?

Milton Hershey dreamed big and practiced his trade well. That aside, he made sure to learn from his mistakes.

He also invested wisely in the other aspects of chocolate production, such as milk and sugar.

7. Does Hershey still have an orphanage?

The Milton Hershey School still operates today, but it is no longer an orphanage. It currently offers free education and boarding to low-income kids.

8. Was Milton Hershey a Mennonite?

Milton Hershey came from a family of Mennonites. However, formal religion was not a part of his life.

9. When did Hershey stop using child labor?

The Hershey Chocolate Company signed the Harkin-Engel Protocol in 2001, pledging to end the use of child labor within cocoa-supplying communities.

It is an ongoing battle, but the company states that it has found no instances of forced child labor since 2018.

10. What was Milton Hershey’s motivation?

Milton wanted to make chocolate affordable for the masses. He also suffered poverty during his younger years and wanted to escape that.

11. Why do some people dislike Hershey’s?

Some people feel that Hershey’s chocolate has a tangy taste.

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