The Moment That Sparked Milton Hershey's Chocolate Obsession

Milton Hershey's chocolate obsession began early in life. According to Biography, after dropping out of school in the mid-1800s at age 13 to work as an apprentice to a candy maker, Hershey asked his aunt for a $150 loan to start his own candy shop. When the shop failed, Hershey began working with another candy maker who taught him the art of making caramel with fresh milk. Eventually, Hershey returned to his home state of Pennsylvania and opened his first successful candy business: Lancaster Caramel Company. Upon selling the company for a whopping $1 million, Hershey honed in on his new fascination with making milk chocolate.

Hershey's obsession with making milk chocolate was prompted and encouraged by a trip to Chicago's 1893 World's Columbian Exposition (via Biography). This expo, which served as a celebration of American innovation, was designed to encourage entrepreneurs to share their ideas, their products, and their inventions, and attract potential customers (via CNN). Here, Hershey was captivated and inspired by a German chocolate machine and, as CNN reports, he stood watching it for hours. Moved to pursue his passion for chocolate and ambition to create the first milk chocolate bar, Hershey immediately purchased the chocolate-making machine (via CNN) and soon after founded the Hershey's Chocolate Company (via Biography).

Milton Hershey built a candy empire as well as a community

In 1903, at a new factory he built in Derry Church, Pennsylvania, Milton Hershey started working on creating his own milk chocolate recipe. Chocolate was largely considered a Swiss delicacy at the time, and Hershey was able to bring the product to the American public (via Hershey, Pa.). The famous Hershey Kiss, which he named, was introduced in 1907 (via Biography).

Hershey was about more than just chocolate. The area surrounding the chocolate factory became the town of Hershey, Pennsylvania, encompassing Hershey's goals of creating a community based around high standards of living and values. He built a suburban-style town for his employees, complete with a park, amusement park, and trolley cars. Today, Hershey, Pennsylvania attracts tourists, and the factory continues to operate. Compared with other competing candy makers, the company produces the most candy in the United States (via Hershey, Pa.).

Milton Hershey's obsession with chocolate and purchase of one of the first chocolate-making machines made America's modern obsession with chocolate possible. Hershey died in his namesake town on October 13, 1945. He left behind a message of determination and kindness, a message — without a doubt — sealed with a kiss.