Hershey Beginnings

Portrait shot of Milton S. Hershey
Milton S. Hershey [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Turn back the clock to 1903 and the tiny town of “Derry Church.” Milton S. Hershey was looking for a place to build his chocolate factory and zeroed in on a rural area in Central Pennsylvania. Theodore Roosevelt was president, Harry Houdini was a top vaudeville performer and the Wizard of Oz premiered on Broadway in New York City. The first teddy bear was introduced in the United States, Niagara Falls ran short of water due to a drought on the U.S. side, and the Wright Brothers had their first successful powdered aircraft flight in Kitty Hawk, N.C.

Into this time period, Milton S. Hershey planned his chocolate factory, town, and community. Many said the location was too isolated, but Hershey had grown up in Central Pennsylvania. He saw a site surrounded by dairy farms that could supply milk for his chocolate, and hardworking German immigrants ready to staff his factory. As with everything Mr. Hershey did, his ideas swept beyond making chocolate. Real estate was not a prime concern at this time, but he saw a community that included houses, schools, churches, recreational facilities, parks and a trolley system as part of its infrastructure. He built upon that dream, providing a pleasant environment with homes, educational and cultural facilities, all carefully planned for the benefit of his factory workers.

Eventually, all that thought, including his recreational enrichments brought tourists. Mr. Hershey was more than happy to encourage that interest. Some visitors came from curiosity, others to experience those same attractions Mr. Hershey had developed for his employees. From that original concept, Hershey has gained world renown as the town that chocolate built.

The next time you visit or stroll down the street, take a moment to consider Hershey’s origins and how much this small town has accomplished in its long, colorful history. And, of course, don’t forget to savor the chocolate!


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