When Bookworm was little and still in school, he did a report on Milton Hershey. I don’t remember exactly what he learned except his main focus was on chocolate. 😉
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So, when Cuddle Bug and I reached the point in our Heroes of History series to read Milton Hershey: More than Chocolate, I was kind of, meh. But I’m so glad I read this book because I learned so much about Hershey, and when I was done, I had a deep respect for the man.
Milton Hershey was the oldest of two children born to Mennonite parents, Henry and Fannie. (His younger sister died before she turned 5.) His mother and father had a tumultuous relationship because Fannie was practical and Henry was a dreamer. In fact, Henry’s endless dreams and get rich schemes left them poor.
Before he was grown, Milton’s parents separated, and his father secured him an apprenticeship at a printing press. This turned into a disaster, and Milton was quickly let go, much to his father’s chagrin. Fannie found him an apprenticeship at a candy maker’s, and the rest was history.
After his apprenticeship, Milton tried to open his own shop, but he failed after just a short amount of time. In fact, Milton was continually opening candy shops, borrowing money from family members to keep the shops alive, and ultimately failing. His father also came in and out of his life, and each time he reappeared, he derailed Milton’s plans. For instance, Milton was making caramels, but his father convinced him to also make cough drops, which was a failure.
Milton did eventually create a successful caramel business, but when he tried European chocolate, he decided that was the way he should focus his business. He thought chocolate was the wave of the future and caramel the way of the past.
While I enjoyed reading about his business up and downs and his tenacity, what I really enjoyed reading about was his personal life. Milton was devoted to both his father and his mother, and even as a grown man, he harbored hope that one day his parents would get back together.
Milton didn’t marry until he was 39, and when he and his wife were unable to have children, they started an orphanage and school. In 1918, Milton signed over 90% of his considerable wealth to the school. He created the town of Hershey not just as the location of his chocolate factory, but also as a town people could live in. He built houses that had all of the modern amenities for his employees, and he also built a school and recreational facilities. During the Great Depression, he started four major building projects to keep people in his town employed.
Though Milton Hershey was a vastly wealthy man, he preferred to live a simple life and give his fortune away to help others less fortunate. I deeply admire him for that.
I give this book 5 out of 5 stars on the Mom’s Plans’ scale.