Milton Snavey Hershey, known as M.S. Hershey or simply MS, was a candy entrepreneur in the United States who is famous as the founder of the Hershey Chocolate Company, which later turned into the Hershey Foods Corporation. Many people around the world have eaten the signature chocolate product of the Hershey Corporation, the Hershey Bar, and the formulation of this iconic food has changed little since Hershey perfected it in the late 1890s.
Hershey was born in 1857 in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. His education stopped at the fourth grade, at which point he was apprenticed as a printer. Milton Hershey quickly proved inept at the printing trade, and he studied under a candymaker, eventually starting his own candy company. His first venture failed, as did his second, but he eventually opened a successful caramel company in his hometown, taking advantage of the ample supply of dairy products in rural Pennsylvania for his Lancaster Caramels.
In the 1890s, Milton Hershey was introduced to milk chocolate, and it filled him with inspiration, leading him to divest from the caramel business and focus on chocolates. The milk chocolate of the period was a challenging food, often extremely gritty and bitter, and Milton Hershey worked to perfect a technique for processing the chocolate to yield a very smooth, creamy chocolate bar which was also designed to be affordable. Once Hershey Bars started hitting the shelves, Milton Hershey was off and running.
One of Hershey's more notable contributions outside the chocolate world was the construction of Hershey, Pennsylvania, a factory town complete with housing for workers, public transportation, schools, and entertainment facilities such as theaters. The town also housed the Hershey factory, and the Hershey Industrial School, established in 1909 by Milton Hershey and his wife Catherine for orphaned children. The Milton Hershey School, as it is now known, continues to provide an excellent education to children who would otherwise be unable to afford it.
While Milton Hershey is well known for his candymaking abilities, thanks to the global company which bears his name today, he was also a philanthropist. He donated his fortune to charity, and promoted the welfare of his workers and their children throughout his life. Milton Hershey was shy about his philanthropy, and he would undoubtedly have been deeply embarrassed by the emotional tributes made at his funeral in 1945, when members of the Hershey community turned out in force to mourn the passing of their community's leader and greatest benefactor.