Extensively researched and vividly written by Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist Michael D’Antonio, Hershey is the fascinating story of the unique American visionary Milton S. Hershey.
The name Hershey evokes many things: chocolate bars, the company town in Pennsylvania, one of America’s most recognizable brands. But who was the man behind the name? In this compelling biography, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Michael D’Antonio gives us the real-life rags-to-riches story of Milton S. Hershey, a largely uneducated businessman whose idealistic sense of purpose created an immense financial empire, a town, and a legacy that lasts to this day.
Hershey, the son of a minister’s daughter and an irresponsible father who deserted the family, began his career inauspiciously when the two candy shops he opened both went bankrupt. Undeterred, he started the Lancaster Caramel Company, which brought him success at last. Eventually he sold his caramel operation and went on to perfect the production process of chocolate to create a stable, consistent bar with a long shelf life...and an American icon was born.
Hershey was more than a successful businessman—he was a progressive thinker who believed in capitalism as a means to higher goals. He built the world’s largest chocolate factory and a utopian village for his workers on a large tract of land in rural Pennsylvania, and used his own fortune to keep his workers employed during the Great Depression. In addition, he secretly willed his fortune to a boys’ school and orphanage, both of which now control a vast endowment.
Keeping his prose blessedly free of "sweet" wordplay, D'Antonio offers a balanced and genial look at the man who brought America the five-cent chocolate bar and founded a utopian village. Milton S. Hershey (1857 1945) was hardly the only Progressive-era tycoon to envision an idyllic company town, but he alone made it work. He set out to create "a self-perpetuating little utopia of capitalism and charity," and that's exactly what Hershey, Pa., was and is. D'Antonio (The State Boys Rebellion, etc.) describes his subject's childhood and early failures, the company's investments and dealings, and the intricacies of candy making. He includes bad stuff on Hershey: the egotism expected of a business mogul, some capricious firings, a tendency toward heavy-handed paternalism and a childless marriage to a woman who, the author concludes, suffered from and died of syphilis. He also explains why Hershey's astonishing generosity toward a school for underprivileged boys resulted in decades of corporate stagnation and, in the last few years, a bitter battle over the company's future. All in all, D'Antonio solidifies his subject's reputation as "a kindly type of industrialist" who brought the nation "happiness in a wrapper." Not a massive social history with grand pretensions indeed, it's a relief to pick up a corporate titan's biography that weighs less than eight pounds this volume will satisfy all but the most voracious readers.
Honestly, I am a completely insane Hershey's lover. Those chocolate bars have been my favorite since I was a kid. I was really happy to see this book, and though I haven't read it yet, it looks almost as good as the candy on the cover.