The Chocolatier Who Persevered (Diet for Dreamers)

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Nothing says LOVE quite like chocolate. At least, that’s how the man who created Milk Chocolate Kisses felt. In fact, Milton S. Hershey was actually saddened that the rich, dark confection was available only to the wealthy, and even then, often only for special occasions. Hershey had big dreams of making chocolate both available and affordable to the general public. He dreamed of a day when the treat would be commonplace, and every day, everyone could have a chocolate kiss. But some of his sweet dreams could have ended up being lost at sea!

Hershey was born September 13, 1857. A descendant of Swiss and German ancestors, young Hershey grew up in a Pennsylvania Mennonite community. The future American entrepreneur originally spoke only Pennsylvania Dutch language, but that wouldn’t deter him from success in a mostly English-speaking business world. Hershey’s  father was something of a rover, and often left his wife and son for extended periods. As a result, Milton Hershey was forced to quit school after the 4th grade. But that wasn’t to be a deterrent to fame, fortune and philanthropy, either.

Backed financially by his mother’s family, Milton Hershey moved to Philadelphia in 1876 and started his first candy business. After only six years, the business went bankrupt, in 1882. Still undeterred, Milton started a second confectionery business a year later, this time in New York. Although initially successful, his new venture went belly up after three years.

Hershey returned to Lancaster, PA in 1886. His dream of bringing confections to the masses was still undimmed. So, using a candy recipe he’d picked up somewhere along the bumpy road to success, Hershey started the Lancaster Caramel Company. This business took off, producing sizable financial rewards and firmly establishing Hersey as a candymaker.

Hershey hadn’t made history yet, but he was about to. Hershey was enthusiastic about the potential of milk chocolate — at the time a luxury product available only to the upper class. He was determined to find a way to economically produce and sell it to the general public. So he sold his caramel company in 1900 and purchased a large piece of dairy land about 30 miles northwest of Lancaster, a move which ensured him large supplies of fresh milk for his cooking experiments.

Success: how sweet it is!  Hershey overcame obstacles and persevered; and a few months later, he introduced the Hershey Milk Chocolate Bar. It’s very tempting to stop typing here, so we can run out to the kitchen and grab one — preferably with almonds. Yes, right now!  Because we love chocolate! Actually, we’re chocoholics!  (Don’t judge us!) But we need to keep typing long enough to let you know Hershey’s tale isn’t over yet. Far from it. The man went on to make many more valuable contributions to the lives of Americans. He had new dreams to fulfill. But for a quirk of fate, these fabulous new visions might never have been realized. Everything — including the beloved “candy man” himself, might have been lost at sea.

Join us Friday for the tasty conclusion to this rich story!
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Life, Lincoln and Lithographs: Setback or Comeback?

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How we face failure can determine our future success. If you’re a creator and you accept rejection or defeat as the end of the line, you’re not going to get very far in life. We can view failure either as an impassible roadblock, or simply as a detour.

No one ever plans to take a detour, but sometimes a detour can put us on a different track that leads to better places and bigger opportunities. Mistakes and false starts aren’t necessarily the worst thing that can happen to us. Losing heart and throwing in the towel IS!  T.D. Jakes once said, “A setback is a setup for a comeback!” This is certainly true in the case of a draftsman named Milton Bradley.

Bradley was born in Maine on November 8, 1836, and grew up in a working-class household in Massachusetts. After completing high school in 1854, Bradley quickly found work as a draftsman and patent agent. Once he’d earned the tuition fees, he enrolled in the Lawrence Scientific School in Cambridge.

In 1856, Bradley got a job with Blanchard & Kimball’s locomotive works in Springfield, Massachusetts. A nice steady job with a good future — or so he thought. During the economic recession of 1858, the company offices closed, and Bradley suddenly found his career opportunities extremely limited. So he followed the example of other enterprising young men who couldn’t get a job: he entered business for himself — doing what he knew best, working as a mechanical draftsman and patent agent.

But there still was a recession! In 1859, Bradley went to Providence, RI to learn lithography. Armed with yet another skill, he set up a color lithography shop the following year, in Springfield. It was the first of its kind in the city, a business that just had to succeed. Or not! Bradley was about to encounter his greatest setback, and suffer a financial blow that might have signaled the end of his entrepreneurial career.

Springfield was the stomping ground — er, stumping ground? — of a little-known Republican who was about to run for president of the United States. Bradley decided to print and sell color lithographs of the presidential nominee, and the venture proved quite successful — initially. The prints were selling like hotcakes until the man depicted in Bradley’s lithographs did something that completely changed his appearance. The guy grew a thick and distinctively shaped beard. Suddenly, Bradley’s not-so-loyal customers were demanding their money back, arguing that the lithograph was no longer an accurate depiction of the man they all hoped would be their next Commander-in-Chief — Abraham Lincoln! Realizing the prints were now essentially worthless, Bradley burned his remaining stock.

HONEST, Abe! We like you BETTER with a beard!

While sitting in his office, trying to figure out how he could possibly recoup this financial loss, poor Bradley decided to give his fevered brain a little break, by playing a board game a friend had given him. Playing the game and contemplating the ups and downs of life, business and success, Milton Bradley suddenly got the idea that would forever change his fortunes and jumpstart a business that prospers to this day!

The draftsman-turned-patent agent-turned-lithographer created The Checkered Game of Life. He released his new board game shortly before Christmas in 1860. Its sales were AMAZING!

Today, people are still playing The Game of Life, along with other Milton Bradley Company games such as Operation and Battleship. All because a hard working entrepreneur chose to view a financial setback as an opportunity for a creative comeback!

“…The LORD your God turned the curse into a blessing for you, because the LORD your God loved you.” (Deuteronomy 23:5 ESV)

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