Milton S. Hershey (Founder of The Hershey Chocolate Co.)

Is your surname Hershey?

Research the Hershey family

Milton S. Hershey (Founder of The Hershey Chocolate Co.)'s Geni Profile

Share your family tree and photos with the people you know and love

  • Build your family tree online
  • Share photos and videos
  • Smart Matching™ technology
  • Free!

Milton Snavely Hershey

Birthplace: Derry Church Twp,, Dauphin County, Pennsylvania
Death: October 13, 1945 (88)
Hershey, Dauphin County, Pennsylvania
Place of Burial: Hershey, Dauphin County, Pennsylvania
Immediate Family:

Son of Henry Hershey Hershey and Veronica "Fanny" Buckwalter Hershey
Husband of Catherine Elizabeth "Kitty" Hershey
Brother of Sarena Hershey

Occupation: Confectioner, Chocolate maker, Founder of the Hershey Chocolate Company, Founder of Hershey Park
Managed by: William Martin Spaetzel
Last Updated:

About Milton S. Hershey (Founder of The Hershey Chocolate Co.)

Milton Hershey was born on a farm close to Derry Township, Pennsylvania town of Derry Church (renamed Hershey in 1906), the only surviving child of Henry and Fanny Snavely Hershey. Due to the family’s frequent moves he dropped out of school after he turned 13 years old and was then apprenticed to a Lancaster, Pennsylvania, printer. The apprenticeship was soon terminated as he did not like the craft and purposely let his hat fall into the printing press. He then served a four-year apprenticeship with a Lancaster candy maker, Joseph Royer. In 1876 after completing his apprenticeship he established his first candy-making business in Philadelphia. That initial effort failed, as did his next attempt in New York City. His Reformed Mennonite mother’s family helped finance these unsuccessful ventures in the candy industry. His mother (Veronica "Fanny" Buckwalter Hershey) and her sister, Aunt Martha "Mattie" Snavely supported the business working for Milton Hershey in the shop. Aunt Mattie Martha B. Snavely also provided several financial loans.

Milton Snavely Hershey (September 13, 1857 – October 13, 1945) was an American confectioner, philanthropist, and founder of The Hershey Chocolate Company and the “company town” of Hershey, Pennsylvania.

He was honored by the United States Postal Service with a 32¢ Great Americans series (1980–2000) postage stamp.

Lancaster Caramel Company

Returning to Lancaster in 1886, Hershey established the Lancaster Caramel Company, which quickly became an outstanding success. Utilizing a caramel recipe he had obtained during his previous travels, his company soared to the top. It was this business that established him as a candy maker, and set the stage for future accomplishments.

Hershey became fascinated with the machinery to make German chocolate exhibited at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition by J. M. Lehman Co. of Dresden, Germany,[1] and bought the equipment for his company.

Hershey Chocolate

With the proceeds from the 1900 sale of the Lancaster Caramel Company, Hershey initially acquired some 1,200 acres (160 km²) of farm land about 30 miles northwest of Lancaster, near his birthplace of Derry Church. There, he could obtain the large supplies of fresh milk needed to perfect and produce fine milk chocolate. Excited by the potential of milk chocolate, which at that time was a Swiss luxury product, Hershey was determined to develop a formula for milk chocolate and market and sell it to the American public. Through trial and error, he created his own formula for milk chocolate. On March 2, 1903, he began construction on what was to become the world’s largest chocolate manufacturing plant. The facility, completed in 1905, was designed to manufacture chocolate using the latest mass production techniques. Hershey’s milk chocolate quickly became the first nationally marketed product of its kind.

The factory was in the center of dairy farmland, but with Hershey’s support, houses, businesses, churches, and a transportation infrastructure accreted around the plant. Because the land was surrounded by dairy farms, he was able to use fresh milk to mass-produce quality milk chocolate. Hershey continued to experiment and perfect the process of making milk chocolate using the techniques he had first learned for adding milk to make caramels.

The town of Hershey

Hershey envisioned a complete community around his factory site. He built a model town for his employees that included comfortable homes, an inexpensive public transportation system, a quality public school system and extensive recreational and cultural opportunities. Hershey avoided building a faceless company town with row houses. He wanted a home town with tree-lined streets, single- and two-family brick houses, and manicured lawns. He was concerned about providing adequate recreation and diversions, so he built HersheyPark which opened on 24 April 1907, and expanded rapidly over the next several years. Amusement rides, a swimming pool, and a ballroom were added. Soon, trolley cars and trains were bringing thousands of out-of-town visitors to the park


On May 25, 1898, Hershey married Catherine "Kitty" Sweeney. Since the couple could not have children, they decided to benefit others, establishing the Hershey Industrial School with a Deed of Trust in 1909.[2] Catherine died prematurely in 1915 and Hershey never remarried. In 1918, Hershey transferred the majority of his assets, including control of the company, to the Milton Hershey School Trust fund, to benefit the Industrial School. The trust fund has a majority of voting shares in The Hershey Company, allowing it to keep control of the company. In 1951, the school was renamed the Milton Hershey School. The Milton Hershey School Trust also has 100% control of Hershey Entertainment and Resorts Company, which owns the Hotel Hershey and HersheyPark, among other properties. He took great pride in the growth of the school, the town, and his business. He placed the quality of his product and the well-being of his workers ahead of profits.[3]

He was part of a forward-looking group of entrepreneurs in this country and abroad who believed that providing better living conditions for their workers resulted in better workers…Milton Hershey conceived of building a community that would support and nurture his workers. Developing the community became a lifelong passion for him.[4] In 1935, Hershey established the M.S. Hershey Foundation, a private charitable foundation that provides educational and cultural opportunities for Hershey residents. The foundation supplies funding for three entities: the Hershey Museum and Hershey Gardens, the Hershey Theatre and the Hershey Community Archives.

The founding of the Penn State Hershey Medical Center/Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center occurred when the board of the trust went to the Dauphin County Orphans Court with the cy-près doctrine (cy près is a French phrase meaning "As close as possible"). It was a gift from the Milton Hershey School Trust to the people of Pennsylvania, with an initial endowment of $50 million and only one restriction—the hospital had to be built in Hershey. The hospital is a teaching hospital with an annual budget exceeding the initial construction cost.


In 1912, the Hersheys were to travel on the ill-fated British luxury liner RMS Titanic. However, they canceled their reservations because Mrs. Hershey was ill at the time.[5] Instead, they booked passage to New York City on the German luxury liner Amerika. The Hershey Museum displays a copy of the check Hershey wrote to the White Star Line as a deposit for a first class stateroom on the Titanic.[6]

World War II

Hershey Chocolate supplied the US military with chocolate bars during World War II. These bars were called Ration D Bars and Tropical Bars. The Tropical Bars were designed not to melt in the tropical weather. It is estimated that between 1940 and 1945, over 3 billion of the Ration D Bars and Tropical Bars were produced and distributed to soldiers throughout the world. In 1939, the Hershey plant was capable of producing 100,000 ration bars a day. By the end of World War II, the entire Hershey plant was producing ration bars at a rate of 24 million a week. For their service throughout World War II, the Hershey Chocolate Company was issued five Army-Navy 'E' Production Awards for exceeding expectations for quality and quantity in the production of the Ration D Bar and Tropical Bar.


Milton S. Hershey died at the age of 88 on October 13, 1945, in Hershey Hospital, a year after he had retired from the board.

From the 1900 federal census, Milton Hershey lived in Lancaster, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, with his wife. The family at the time consisted of:

  • Head Milton S Hershey 43
  • Wife Catharine Hershey 28

view all

Milton S. Hershey (Founder of The Hershey Chocolate Co.)'s Timeline

September 13, 1857
Derry Church Twp,, Dauphin County, Pennsylvania
October 13, 1945
Age 88
Hershey, Dauphin County, Pennsylvania
Hershey Cemetery, Hershey, Dauphin County, Pennsylvania