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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 (50 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #706,257 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

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

62 of 66 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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16 of 17 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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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful By John Reitter on March 8, 2006
Format: Hardcover
After reading most of what had been written about Milton Hershey, and after being a Hershey tour guide for nearly 20 years, I was thrilled to get my hands on the first scholarly biography of the America's most generous industrial barron.

Even though young Milton could not be considered a "poor boy" in economic terms, he felt abandoned by his dreaming and adventurous father. Milton failed at school, farming, job training and self-employment...a typical looser. Yet he had an inate sense of optimism that kept him going: "If at first you don't succeed..." should be his epitaph.

But orphan boys and girls are his real opus. After amassing over $60 million he and his wife Catherine donated it all to the Hershey School for children from broken homes which still thrives today. M.S. Hershey's legacy is also found in the quaint and charming factory town with lights shaped like Hershey Kisses and people who admire their founder as if he were still alive. The combined Hershey Schools, Trust, and Companies are now worth over $10 billion.

However the real breakthrough in this new book is the amazing discovery and revelation about Catherine's illness and Milton's decade-long, worldwide search for a cure. A quest that sadly failed to save his beloved Kitty, but it cemented a beautiful and romantic relationship into a remarkable love story.

I have always felt that this secret love story was at the hidden heart of the Hershey tale. In so many ways it was his failures that lead to his later successes. We all have our failings and sometimes crushing losses to add to our burdens. The Hershey story is an inspiration to all of us "loosers". A big Thank You to Michael D'Antonio for doing all the work to bring this untold love story to light.

Bill Reitter
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