I was excited to read Hershey by Michael D’Antonio because I had always been interested in the Hershey story (even though I have never visited Hershey, PA). I found parts of the book interesting but I also found it to be over-detailed with information that I didn’t think was necessary in telling the story. I was often derailed by the minutiae of information within the stories. I felt that the book could have been condensed considerably without losing any punch. It was still an interesting read. Below are what I found most interesting.
First and foremost and I am often humbled by history. Milton Hershey was born before the start of the Civil War and lived until just after the end of World War II. During this time he also witnessed an extremely volatile market including the Great Depression. He was even supposed to be on the Titanic but due to a scheduling conflict, could make the voyage. The book was filled with history and how other iconic brands came to life during this time such as Coca Cola, Nabisco, Wrigley and others.
Milton grew up in a strange family dynamic. His mother came from a wealthy, conservative, Mennonite family who very much lived a quiet and traditional life. His dad on the other hand was a dreamer and was constantly moving from one place to other constantly chasing ideas. This led to friction between his mother and his father which led to them separating (while still reamingin married due to her religious beliefs.) Milton’s father, Henry, had no shortage of confidence and believed in every idea he came up with. He also believed his son would build the greatest chocolate factory in the world. Although confident, none of his dad’s ideas ever panned out and Milton had to assist him financially most of his life.
At the request of his mother, one of Milton Hershey’s first job was working for a confectioner and learned how to make candies and carmels. He had many years of paid training before he ever set out on his own.
Although we view him to be an incredible success, like most successful people, Hershey failed time and time again. He had two other candy shops before his business finally took off. In those early attempts, he had to keep borrowing money from his mother’s wealthy relatives to keep him afloat. After a while, they decided they were done giving him money. Even his successful venture was almost a disaster as he was going to default on his loan when a wealthy businessman from England came through with a huge order.
In the end, Milton created his Utopian city, The problem with Utopia is that it is based on one person’s view of what is perfect. He was often hypocritical with what he said and how he acted. He was a very giving person but would also not hesitate to fire someone for a small mistake. He created an ideal society so as though your beliefs matched his.