The Chocolatier Who Persevered (Diet for Dreamers)


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!