US confectioner and philanthropist. In 1903 he built a factory near his birthplace of Derry Township, Pennsylvania, to manufacture five-cent chocolate bars; the business prospered so well that ‘Hershey’ became virtually synonymous with chocolate in the USA and he branched out to dominate the cocoa and syrup markets. In order to maintain his constantly expanding need for reliable workers, he began to build a complete town near the factory, including stores, schools, recreational facilities, and a large amusement park.
Hershey's father moved so frequently that Milton attended seven schools in eight years, never progressing beyond grade four. He apprenticed to a Lancaster, Pennsylvania, confectioner (1872–76) and then opened his own candy store in Philadelphia. By 1886 he was back in Lancaster where he soon found success making caramels using fresh milk. By 1900 he had sold his caramel business to concentrate on chocolate. In 1909 he built a trade school for orphan boys. Although often criticized for his paternalism and for running a ‘company town’, he did expand the town's building program during the 1930s depression and he left his vast fortune to various philanthropist concerns, including a medical centre.