The School that Chocolate Built
Hershey Chocolate Company
In the early 1900s, Milton Hershey, founder of the Hershey Chocolate Company, and his wife, Catherine “Kitty” Hershey, decided to build an orphanage for boys. The couple could not have kids because of an illness Kitty had that made her very ill. They decided to give the fortune they had earned from Milton’s ownership stake in the Hershey Chocolate Company to the kids in their local community. Added to their inability to have kids was Milton’s desire to give kids what he never had. He would often tell the kids that “he was a poor boy once.” However, when someone would ask him why they had started the orphanage, Milton would respond with “it was Kitty’s idea.”
Hershey Industrial School
The institution they built was originally known as the Hershey Industrial School in Hershey, Pennsylvania. Today, the school is known as the Milton Hershey School. The original intent of the school was to take care of the homeless boys in the Pennsylvania counties of Lebanon, Dauphin, and Lancaster. The school would house the boys and provide a technical education for those boys that would allow them to work in agriculture or various other industries. The school would take care of the boys by feeding them with “plain wholesome food” and clothing them “without distinctive dress.” Milton believed that eating simple, wholesome food and wearing simple clothing, while learning to work by working on a farm and going to school, were all very important things to teach children, especially young boys. And to ensure that the school would continue on after the Hershey couple passed away, Milton left his controlling stake in the Hershey Chocolate Company to the school in his will when he passed away.
Type of Education and Cost
Although the school is no longer listed as an orphanage (officially it is a private boarding school), the basic principles which they developed long ago and continue to use today provide for a good basis on which some have argued a modern orphanage can be built upon. Though the school focuses more on academics today then the Hershey’s originally intended (their focus was on vocational training), the school does insist on vocational training through internships. Even though Milton’s ownership stake in the chocolate company continues to help pay for the cost of the school to this day, large portions of the school’s current operating budget also comes from various partnerships that the school has with other companies. These partnerships then provide internship opportunities for the students at the school with those companies.
The Hershey’s believed that the best way to care for the children was to divide them into cottages and have a married couple care for those kids. To this day, the school is divided into small cottages and each cottage has nine to thirteen children of the same sex and a married couple with parenting experience. The children in each cottage have chores that they have to complete each day, such as vacuuming the floors and helping to prepare the meals in the home.
Return to Adoption History
- Richard A. Zimmerman, “Hershey Foods Corporation: The Strength Behind Our Success” (speech presented at the “1993 Central Pennsylvania Meeting” of The Newcomen Society of the United States, Hershey, Pennsylvania, April 29, 1993), and Michael D’Antonio, “Beneficent Jove,” in Hershey: Milton S. Hershey’s Extraordinary Life of Wealth, Empire, and Utopian Dreams (New York, NY: Simon & Schuster, 2006).
- Zimmerman, “Hershey Foods,” 24.
- D’Antonio, “Beneficent Jove,” 129.
- Michael D’Antonio, Hershey: Milton S. Hershey’s Extraordinary Life of Wealth, Empire, and Utopian Dreams (New York, NY: Simon & Schuster, 2006).
- Estella Moriarty, LL.D., “The Nation’s Child Welfare Problems as Viewed from the Bench,” Rethinking Orphanages for the 21st Century, ed. Richard B. McKenzie (Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, 1999), 39 & 45. Richard J. Gelles, Ph.D., “Family Preservation and Child Maltreatment,” Rethinking Orphanages for the 21st Century, ed. Richard B. McKenzie (Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, 1999), 59.
- “College and Career Readiness,” Milton Hershey School, accessed November 5, 2014, http://www.mhskids.org/academics/senior-division/college-career-readiness/.
- Zimmerman, “Hershey Foods,” 24.
- D’Antonio, “Beneficent Jove,” 130.
- “Student Home Life,” Milton Hershey School, accessed November 5, 2014, http://www.mhskids.org/life-mhs/campus-life/.