Do you know where the “Sweetest Place on Earth” is? Why, it’s Hershey, PA! Also, the place I spent my Valentine’s Day weekend. I love history and chocolate and this place had plenty of both. I learned many interesting facts in the Hershey Story Museum that I bet three-quarters of the chocolate eating population doesn’t know. For example, Milton Hershey started out as the son of a poor farmer. He had a 4th grade education, and remained a bachelor much of his adult life. When he first started into the work force, he was a printing apprentice, but quickly got fired after losing his hat in a printing press. Next, he moved onto confectioner’s apprentice, and his sweet tooth told him this was where he belonged.
After quite a few failed attempts at running his own business, he finally found success with caramels (Lancaster). He made his first million and began coating his caramels in chocolate. He soon noticed that people were sucking the chocolate coating off the caramel, then throwing away the middle, and then decided caramels were just a fad. Chocolate was the way to go. But at this time, only the rich could afford chocolate. He set out to change that. He sold Lancaster and invested all the money into the first chocolate factory.
Besides making chocolate affordable, he wanted to make a pleasing work environment for his employees. So he built a town for them around his factory in the middle of dairy country (actually called Derryville). He offered wonderful benefits, affordable housing, schools, sports teams (baseball and hockey), and entertainment. He literally built a small utopia. Probably the most notable thing he did, however, was to build a school for orphaned boys, which has grown exponentially over the years and helps boys and girls alike. In fact, on his death, he left all of his 60 million dollars to the school!
Here are some other miscellaneous fun facts:
- He didn’t marry until he was 40 years old, and his young wife died early due to an undiagnosed disease. He never married again.
- He had a ticket for the Titanic, but rescheduled for an earlier ship due to his wife’s illness.
- Many of the factory improvements and ideas came from his employees on the floor.
- One of these ideas is transporting chocolate from one part of the factory to another via bathtubs on wheels. And they still do it this way to this day!
- He welcomed competitive candy companies to plant their roots in Hershey. One being a popular company called Reese’s. Later, Hershey would supply chocolate to them, and then eventually buy them out.
- During the Great Depression, when all other companies were cutting hours and pay, he decided to create work for his town by starting construction on the Hotel Hershey, which is based off an architectural design he and his wife had fallen in love with overseas.
- Milton Hershey created a similar utopian town for his workers in Cuba.
- Hershey is the only company to use fresh milk in their chocolate recipe, which is why he so wisely built his plant amongst the local farms of his childhood instead of in a big city.
I have to say, that after my trip to Hershey, I’m proud to be a Hershey lover. While other philanthropists of his time squandered their money in lavish mansions and material possessions, Mr. Hershey put his money back into his company and back into his employees. What a wonderful man.
SO now to my trip! (I hope you enjoyed the mini-history lesson.)
Here’s a view outside my hotel window (we stayed at the Hershey Lodge, which is a woodsy version of the fancy Hotel Hershey).
It was -4 degrees before wind chill!
The streets really have chocolate themed names and the streetlights are kisses.
We each received a Hershey chocolate bar at registration and the bathroom had adorable kiss wallpaper.
Everything in the hotel and town smelled like chocolate! They use the cocoa butter to makes soaps and shampoos. And even utilize the leftover cocoa bean shells as fertilizer for the surrounding farms. Nothing goes wasted thanks to Mr. Hershey’s frugalness and meager beginnings.
On the first night, we took a Truffles for Couples class. I went with the milk chocolate. Hubby went with white. By the way, do you know the difference between dark chocolate, white chocolate and milk chocolate?
Milk chocolate has chocolate liquor, cocoa butter, milk, sugar
Dark chocolate has chocolate liquor and a small amount of milk and sugar
White chocolate has cocoa butter, milk, and sugar (all the unhealthy stuff!)
The most amazing thing I discovered though while touring the Hershey Story museum was the early advertising campaign for their Hershey bars.
“A nutritious confection!”
“Eat as a meal!”
It makes you wonder what “nutritious” products out there now will turn out to be unhealthy years from now.
Besides the museum, the awesome amusement park (closed for the winter), the Hershey Gardens, and the great restaurants, there is one more little known fact about Hershey, PA. They have outlets. Lots of them! Underarmour, Zales, Coach, Gap, Banana Republic, Disney, and many more. We went a little bit crazy with our spending. Yikes!
But perhaps my favorite purchase is my Hershey Kiss bracelet. A reminder that anything is possible if you work hard and never give up.
I hope you will be able to visit Hershey at some point in your life. It’s definitely the Sweetest Place on Earth!