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Hershey: Milton S. Hershey's Extraordinary Life of Wealth, Empire, and Utopian Dreams Hardcover – January 3, 2006

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

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. (Jan.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From School Library Journal

Adult/High School Snack-loving teens may be well disposed toward this entertaining book before opening it, since its subject is the inventor of the first popular and inexpensive milk chocolate bar in the United States. The story of the man's success is one of determination, innovation, and perseverance despite repeated failures, all encompassed in a personality unique among the tycoons of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. A curious mix of capitalist ruthlessness and utopian idealism, Hershey pursued riches but believed deeply in social responsibility. His devotion to the latter created a legacy that exists to this day in his school for at-risk children and, in Hershey, PA, the charming company town that was one of the few American communities virtually unaffected by the Great Depression. Fascinating details about candy production and Hershey's personal life abound, and the balanced viewpoint, smooth writing, and succinct treatment make this biography a good choice for assignments related to leadership, business, or U.S. social history. Starr E. Smith, Fairfax County Public Library, VA
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; 1st edition (January 3, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743264096
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743264099
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (47 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #727,503 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Besides the influence of family and growing-up experiences in small town New Hampshire I have been most affected by two people I met in college, my wife Toni and my first mentor, writer Donald Murray. Both have encouraged me to express my creativity, connect with others, and find ways to serve. They understood intuitively what I later found expressed so well by Viktor Frankl in Man's Search for Meaning. I've found that if I don't take maysellf too seriously, and add a little silliness, it's a pretty good recipe.
Today I live in Long Island, not far from the sound. I have two grown daughters, Amy and Elizabeth, who have becopme the other great influences on my life.

Customer Reviews

Highly recommend this book to anyone who likes biographies.
The life and legacy of Milton Hershey is one of the more intriguing stories in American business and history.
Lehigh History Student
I found this book, overall, to be very lively and interesting.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

61 of 65 people found the following review helpful By Charlie Sc. on January 4, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Everyone knows Mr. Hershey for chocolate. Fewer people know that he secretly gave almost his entire fortune away 35 years before his death to provide perpetual support for an orphanage. He then carefully oversaw that orphanage, which grew to 1,500 students and became the Milton Hershey School. He also established an orphanage of similar size in Cuba, where he had large investments in sugar operations.

I found this book to be extremely well-researched and well-written. I have read 3 previous books and many articles on Mr. Hershey and this book covered many facets that were not previously reported. The author does an exemplary job of putting incidents in Mr. Hershey's life within a larger historical context.

The author's main goal was to delve into Mr. Hershey's character and actions in a way that goes beyond the myths. In the process, he finds some faults (such as gambling and a temper), but this critical examination provides a much more refined picture of the man's greatness. As a result, we see that Mr. Hershey's accomplishments stand up to intensive scrutiny.

The book describes a long rivalry between Mr. Hershey and William Wrigley. It started when Mr. Hershey thought that Wrigley had cheated him while they were gambling on an ocean liner. That spurred Mr. Hershey to enter the chewing gum business (which lost millions) and to almost buy the Philadelphia Phillies to compete with Wrigley's team.

One item in the book that has gotten some unpleasant attention is a possibility that his wife had late stage syphilis. This discussion is only on one page out of a 300 page book. The author theorizes that the illness was without symptoms for many years after they met and was not contagious at that stage.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Rob Hardy HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on February 23, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Teddy Roosevelt called them the "malefactors of great wealth", the Gilded Age magnates who controlled an overwhelming portion of commerce and didn't care much about who got hurt as they got rich. Milton S. Hershey had plenty of their characteristics. He was pushy, censorious, and irascible. He certainly did make his millions, and he certainly enjoyed them, but he did not neglect his workers. In _Hershey: Milton S. Hershey's Extraordinary Life of Wealth, Empire, and Utopian Dreams_ (Simon and Schuster), Michael D'Antonio writes, "If it's a rule that behind every great fortune lies a great crime, M. S. Hershey was the exception." Hershey was not without his flaws, and didn't treat everyone affably, and certainly might be accused of paternalism, but he was the "Good Millionaire", a unique entrepreneur who harnessed his own ambition and put it to higher purposes than greed or self-aggrandizement. Everyone knows Hershey Kisses and Hershey Bars; the wrapper of the bar is so familiar that it is parodied for the cover of this delightful book, forcing a legal decision that required a sticker be placed on it: "Neither authorized nor sponsored by the Hershey Company." The company need not have worried. Both Hershey and HersheyCo come off well.

Hershey was born in 1857 on a Pennsylvania farm, but his family shifted around due to his improvident father's ways His mother had ambitions for her son who started working in confections after leaving school at age twelve. His initial businesses failed, but he succeeded in caramels, which he worried were a fad. At the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago, he saw the German chocolate machines and realized that chocolate would be a staple of the candy business.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Rick Mitchell VINE VOICE on June 21, 2006
Format: Hardcover
There's the old line: Inside every fat book is a skinny book trying to get out. Inside this thin book was a thinner book trying to get out. If there was a style to put to this book, it would be redundancy. The author repeated himself after he repeated himself.

M.S. Hershey was an interesting man and his life story a unique one. The company that bears his name is also unique. Unfortunately, by the end of the book, I still did not get the feeling I knew the man very well. There seemed to be little beyond what could be gleened from contemporaneous newspaper and magazine articles which, by the author's characterization, were manipulated and PR pieces.

There actually seemed to be more personal information about Kitty Hershey, M.S.'s wife, and Henry, his father. This was probably due to the fact that there were sources used who knew them personally and the information came from non-company sources.

All in all this was interesting, but I expected much more, especially after the opening pages that described the orphanage that is the majority owner of Hershey stock (making it by far the best-endowed school in the world). The tracking of Hershey's early life and struggles was also good. The book seemed to fall flat at the point where Hershey developed the chocolate and started the chocolate business. (There is a huge hole where one would expect something about how he developed it - other than he experimented and got a good recipe.) I suspect the flatness was because the vast majority of the information from the point of development onward came from company sources with few independent ones.
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