The Hershey bar is a chocolate candy produced by The Hershey Company that has become something of an American icon. Also known as The Great American Chocolate Bar, the Hershey bar was the first example of mass-produced chocolate in the U.S. While the company’s founder eventually became one of America’s wealthiest citizens and one of the most generous philanthropists of the 20th century, his start in business was considerably more humble. In fact, by the age of 30, Milton S. Hershey endured two previously unsuccessful attempts to make a living as a chocolate confectioner and barely escaped bankruptcy. However, like his milk chocolate Hershey bar, the unwavering entrepreneur was destined for sweet success.
The legendary story of the Hershey bar and the man that made it famous is unusual and certainly inspirational on several levels. First, the creation of the candy bar itself was highly innovative, since up until the early 1900s only the Swiss had mastered the art of making milk chocolate on a large scale and only the wealthy could afford to indulge in it. Secondly, when Hershey began operations as The Hershey Chocolate Company, he accomplished something no other business mogul had done before or has since — he built an entire town and community to serve the needs of the company workforce that would eventually become a world of chocolate only comparable in scope to Disneyland.
The development of “company towns” was not unique to the industrialists of Hershey’s day, however. For instance, coal mining and lumber companies often constructed self-contained communities where all the real estate and services were owned by the parent company. Nevertheless, Hershey’s view of what a company town should be differed quite a bit from that of his contemporaries. In fact, his vision benefited his hometown of Derry Church, Pennsylvania, where the Hershey Chocolate Company broke ground, and included numerous schools, parks, and churches, as well as residential neighborhoods where company executives and workers resided. More than 100 years later, the town is now known as Hershey, is a major tourist attraction complete with an amusement park, live theater and music events, botanical gardens, golf courses, and world-class restaurants and accommodations.
The original Hershey bar made its debut in 1900. However, the family of chocolate bars that bore the same name soon expanded to include the Hershey’s® bar with almonds in 1908. It would be another seventy years before the line of special dark chocolate bars made their appearance, which was followed by Hershey’s® Kisses and an assortment of sandwich cookies and brownies beginning in the 1990s. The company’s web site also offers giant chocolate bars 50 times the size of the classic Hershey bar, which can be custom ordered to include a personalized wrapper to extend a Happy Birthday greeting or Thank You message.