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Milton S. Hershey’s Extraordinary Life of Wealth, Empire, and Utopian Dreams

A-HersheyIn the age of industrialists, Milton S. Hershey stood out for both his methods and his material. While the Rockefellers and Carnegies were forging steel and drilling for oil, M. S., as he was known, was making chocolate. What might have seemed a trifle became a profitable American institution. Hershey used his profits to build the company town that still bears his name. A true progressive capitalist, he encouraged home ownership and provided schools, amusement parks, and Hershey’s Kiss–capped light poles for his many employees. When he passed away in 1945, he entrusted his entire fortune to the Milton Hershey School, ensuring that his empire of chocolate would always serve more than America’s sweet tooth.
Simon & Schuster. 305 pages. $25. ISBN: 0743264096

Los Angeles Times 4 of 5 Stars
"[A] charming and absorbing account of one of American capitalism’s eccentric visionaries whose business success was matched by his devotion to social improvement. D’Antonio has delivered an intriguing portrait of a true American individualist and his time." Anthony Day

NY Times Book Review 4 of 5 Stars
"While some look at Hershey and see either a beneficent angel or a willful tyrant, it is the great charm of D’Antonio’s book that he will not plunk entirely for one judgment or the other. It’s the man he’s after, not the god." Benjamin Cheever

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 4 of 5 Stars
"D’Antonio’s captivating book is, in fact, as much a biography of the town as it is of the man who built it on Lebanon Valley farmland and forest in 1903 to support his new chocolate factory. … The book unfolds much like a good novel." Jonathan Potts

San Francisco Chronicle 4 of 5 Stars
"While the 305-page offering is skimpy by standards of today’s ‘big biographies,’ the author does an admirable job of making certain that every word counts. One leaves the work with a fairly detailed view of both the man and the times in which he lived." Peter Hyman

Milwaukee Jrnl-Sentinel 3.5 of 5 Stars
"Hershey’s life is truly a by-the-bootstraps tale of a ne’er-do-well youngster who grew up to create a utopian town to make his utopian candy and then use his utopian profits to establish a utopian school for orphans and underprivileged boys. … D’Antonio portrays Milton S. Hershey as a turn-of-the-20th-century tycoon, who did a great deal of good while also doing very well." Jules Wagman

Critical Summary

Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist Michael D’Antonio (Atomic Harvest; Fall From Grace; The State Boys Rebellion, 4 of 5 Stars Sept/Oct 2004) delivers the first full biography of Milton S. Hershey, to universal critical acclaim. Hamstrung by a dearth of primary sources, D’Antonio makes economy a virtue. He focuses on newspaper accounts of the time and unfinished manuscripts to tell Hershey’s rags-to-riches story, while providing enough historical context on everything from the rise of marketing to labor unions to give Hershey’s unique accomplishment its due. At the same time, D’Antonio remains clear-eyed about Hershey’s "benevolent dictator" flaws. Critics extol D’Antonio’s evenhanded, objective treatment of such a colorful and sometimes paradoxical character.