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History of Chocolate
For many Americans, chocolate is Hershey. The Hershey Chocolate Company was founded by Milton S. Hershey in 1894. Mr. Hershey was CEO until just before his death in 1945. He was a unique individual who did not start the company in order to achieve grandiose dreams of the high life for himself and his family. Mr. Hershey has visions of a corporation which would provide fair compensation and humane working conditions for his employees, along with a myriad of other benefits. He intended for the company to provide almost everything the employees would need.
The first successful venture instigated by Mr. Hershey was the Lancaster Caramel Company, founded in 1886, in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. In the previous four years, Mr. Hershey had not succeeded with two other confectionery businesses he started in New York City and Philadelphia. This had taught him what not to do! The Lancaster Caramel Company, to give it its official name, flourished, made him wealthy and generally grew beyond all his hopes for its success. It also brought him notoriety as a fair employer.
During the period when his caramel company was enjoying huge success, Mr. Hershey realized that although popular, caramels would be a passing trend in the USA and that chocolate products would continue to be the most important and popular aspect of the confectionary business, long term. He opened a small chocolate company next to the caramel plant in 1894 which he called the Hershey Chocolate Company. Mr. Hershey started production of cocoa, sweet chocolate coatings for caramels and baking chocolate. Again, Mr. Hershey’s intuition proved correct, and the growing chocolate company enjoyed steady expansion year upon year.
Mr. Hershey never forgot his employees, and had a keen sense of social responsibility and a strong commitment to humanity. In 1900, Mr. Hershey sold his caramel company and decided to relocate the chocolate operations to a new location. In 1905 the factory and operations were moved to the town of Hershey, Pennsylvania. The company continued to grow and had unparalleled success. It produced a variety of chocolate products and was the first to market its products nationwide. The iconic maroon and silver Hershey bars quickly became an American favorite, passing into American popular culture.
The first part of the 20th century saw the chocolate town of Hershey enjoy an extraordinary period of growth and continued success. This was due in no small part to the ongoing success of the Hershey Chocolate Company. Mr. Hershey arranged affordable housing for his employees, schools, community centers and churches. He went on to construct a theater, an amusement park, a railroad system, stores and many other amenities for the use of his workers and the surrounding community.
Probably the most important community contribution was the Hershey Industrial School (renamed the Milton Hershey School in 1951). The school was entirely dedicated to the educational development and care of orphans. Today, the school is a major shareholder in the Hershey Chocolate Company.
The legacy left by Mr. Hershey -- hard work, social responsibility, and the sharing of wealth -- live on today, and are the bedrock of the company.
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