HERSHEY: MILTON S. HERSHEY'S EXTRAORDINARY LIFE OF WEALTH, EMPIRE, AND UTOPIAN DREAMS by Michael D'Antonio was read for the In Their Shoes Reading Challenge.
From the book jacket:
HERSHEY. The name means chocolate to America and the world, but, as Michael D'Antonio reveals, it also stands for an inspiring man and a uniquely successful experiment in community and capitalism that produced a business empire devoted to a higher purpose.
One of the twentieth century's most eccentric and idealistic titans of industry, Milton S. Hershey brought affordable milk chocolate to America, creating and then satisfying the chocoholic urges of millions. He pioneered techniques of branding, mass production, and marketing and gained widespread fame as the Chocolate King.
But as he developed massive factories, Cuban sugar plantations, and a vacation wonderland called Hersheypark, M.S. never lost sight of a grander goal. Determined that his wealth produce a lasting legacy, he tried to create perfect places where his workers could live, perfect schools for their children, and a perfect charity to salvage the lives of needy children in perpetuity. Along the way, he overcame his personal childhood traumas as well as the death, after a short and intensely romantic marriage, of the one woman he ever loved...
Everyone knows Hershey chocolate bars, Hershey Kisses, Hershey cocoa. But do you know about Milton S. Hershey?
I grew up in Philadelphia and spent many a day at Hersheypark - my absolute favorite amusement park. I love the town of Hershey. The streetlamps on Chocolate Avenue are shaped like Hershey Kisses. There used to be a tour of the actual chocolate factory, where you could actually watch the candy being made. Now they have an attraction called Chocolate World outside the gates of Hersheypark, where you take a ride through the attraction, seeing pictures and hearing the story of the chocolate-making process. If I could live anywhere in the country, I think I'd chose the town of Hershey, Pennsylvania.
I had known some about the Milton Hershey School, but never realized how important this school was to M.S. Hershey. He left his entire fortune to the school, and the profits of the chocolate factory (and other holdings) belong to the school. Enrollment in the school is open to children between the ages of 4-15, and provides housing, clothing, medical care and education from pre-school through Grade 12 - at no cost. The children eligible to attend this school are selected from applicants from low-income families who show social need and a willingness to learn. You can learn more about the school here.
This book chronicles the life of Milton Hershey and his experimentation to find the perfect chocolate. It tells how he planned the town of Hershey (and a similar town in Cuba near his sugar plantations) to provide a place for his employees to live. And it tells how he developed his school.
Milton Hersey did not have a great childhood. His father neglected him; his mother worked hard to provide for her children. He was never a good student.
As an adult, Milton fulfilled his father's dream of success and acclaim by building a great industry. With the creation of his utopian town he heeded his mother's admonitions about serving something higher than the accumulation of personal wealth. Then, when it came time to consider his legacy, he invested his fortune with a poignant flourish. He would save himself symbolically - by rescuing little boys in the straits he knew as a child - over and over again in perpetuity.
Milton Hershey was quite a man. I think I'll go have a handful of Hershey Kisses in his honor.