Monday, August 4, 2014

Kisses: The Life of Milton S. Hershey

Milton Hershey grew up a simple farm boy in Pennsylvania. His mother Fanny read the Good Book to him every day. His father Henry taught him to dream and take chances. Milton watched his father struggle to make money in oil and trout fishing. So, his first job was in a candy shop, where he could learn to make caramels.

After years of being an apprentice, Milton opened his own caramel company. His Aunt Mattie believed in him so much that she paid to set up the business, but business was tough, and Milton ended up going bankrupt more than once. Milton finally got his caramel company going when a British importer made a large order. A local banker gave Milton the money he needed to fulfill the shipment of candy. After that, business started booming, and Milton tasted sweet success. 

While selling caramels in New York, he met a beautiful woman named Kitty Sweeney. After a whirlwind romance, they married and planned to have many children. With the success of Milton’s Lancaster Caramel Company, he started to make chocolate. He made creamy milk chocolate that melts beneath your tongue and was as rich as butter. After he sold the caramel business, he built the Hershey Chocolate Company. He based his factory in the cornfields of Pennsylvania, where dairy farmers raised cows.

At his new factory, he made chocolate candy bars and kisses. The factory had so many workers that he had to build a town. So, he founded the town of Hershey for his workers and their families. The town had a zoo, a trolley, a baseball field, a school, a hospital, and churches. Each worker had an original home, distinct and unique. As Milton’s chocolate company became more and more successful, Kitty’s health began to fail, and she could not have children. She was so sad; she wanted to start a family with Milton.

Then she had the idea to start the Hershey Industrial School for orphan boys. Boys applied from all over the country; Nelson and Irvin were the first boys accepted. Milton aimed to raise boys that were productive members of society with good virtues. He taught them to work hard and live by the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

Milton’s Wall Street competitors became angry that he gave money to orphans. They told him to stop being so generous and try to make a larger profit with his money. Kitty loved the boys so much, as though they were her own children. However, her body deteriorated, and she could no longer walk and rode in a wheelchair. One day when Kitty and Milton were resting at the ocean, Milton got called away for business, and he left Kitty at the beach house with her nurse. Kitty got restless and decided that she should go back to Hershey with Milton.

As her nurse drove home, Kitty forgot to roll up the windows. She could not feel the cold air on her skin, and her body became frostbitten. The nurse stopped the car at the closest hotel and got a room for the night. By the time Milton arrived in the morning, Kitty was close to dying. She asked him for a glass of champagne, and when he returned, Kitty had passed away. Milton dropped to his knees crying and crying; he was stricken with grief.

In Kitty’s honor, Milton gave his entire fortune of $60 million to his orphan school. He wanted the school to last for many years to come. Milton’s competitors and Wall Street bankers were so jealous of his successes. The bankers wanted to destroy his town and company. They tried to put themselves in charge of his company by buying the controlling stock. The scheme didn’t work though; because the stock market crashed, the deal fell through. Milton was so happy that outsiders never took control of his town and company.

In time, Hershey Chocolate reached enormous global success. Now Milton was known for his generosity all over this great big world. During World War II, Milton even found a way to serve his country with chocolate. He produced Ration D Bars and Tropical Chocolate Bars for the U.S. military. Today, the Hershey Company is a global leader in chocolate production. The Milton Hershey School serves many orphan boys and girls. Milton has been a father to many generations through his sweet milk chocolate. All it took was one man with a big dream, and a heart full of love and kisses. 


Copyright 2014 Jennifer Waters

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