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Archive for October, 2011

What’s the weather?

 

Having a office in a windowless location often leaves me disconnected from the weather.  All sorts of weather happens without my knowledge and I’m often surprised by it when I leave work at the end of the day.  Wanting to know the weather is a desire shared by all who work in windowless environments. 

 

Hershey Chocolate Corporation Windowless Office Building, 1957

Hershey Chocolate Corporation Windowless Office Building, 1957

 

 

In 1934 Hershey Chocolate Corporation announced plans to build a new office building.  While original designs for the building included lots of windows to provide natural light, soon after ground was broken Milton Hershey was inspired by an innovative design and asked his builder/architect D. Paul Witmer to change the plans and build a windowless office building.  Amazingly, Mr. Witmer was able to draft a new set of plans before the foundation was completed and construction proceeded without interruption. 

 

 

Hershey's new windowless office building featured large, open offices lit with indirect lighting.

Hershey's new windowless office building featured large, open offices lit with indirect lighting.

 

 

The building incorporated several innovations designed to enhance worker comfort.  Some of those enhancements included central air-conditioning and even, indirect lighting to minimize shadows.  In every office a weather indicator was installed so that workers could know at all times the status of the weather.

 

 

A weather indicator was installed underneath each clock in Hershey Chocolate Corporation's windowless office building.

A weather indicator was installed underneath each clock in Hershey Chocolate Corporation's windowless office building.

 

 

The weather indicator featured three colored glass bullseyes lit by miniature electric bulbs.  Different types of weather were represented by different combinations of the three colored lights being lit.

 

 

 

 

Weather conditions were communicated by lighting different combinations of the colored lights.

Weather conditions were communicated by lighting different combinations of the colored lights. (Memo from Accession 87006, B12 F27.2)

 

 

 

 The basic combinations to communicate weather were:

 

White                       Clear weather

Red                           Rain

White and Red     Cloudy

Green                       Snow

Green and White  Electrical Storm underway

 

Today, employees working in the Windowless Office Building still rely on the weather indicator panels.  The need to know the weather is still an important part of daily life.

Hershey’s syrup in cans

 

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In 1956 Hershey Chocolate Corporation began manufacturing its own tins for Hershey’s syrup. Here an employee monitors the progress of a can labeler. ca.1960-1970

 

Milton Hershey believed in being as self-sufficient as possible.  He built his own power plant to provide electricity to run his factory and his town.  He established sugar mills in Cuba to assure that he would have enough sugar for his milk chocolate bars and set up a print shop in the factory to print his own labels.  Hershey Chocolate Company even  manufactured its own metal containers for Hershey’s Cocoa.  However, when Hershey began producing chocolate syrup, the company decided to purchase the cylindrical cans.  It wasn’t until 1956 that Hershey began manufacturing their own syrup cans.  Howard Phillippy, a plant engineer, led the effort to install the needed machinery.  In his oral history interview, he explained how Hershey Chocolate factory began manufacuring its own syrup cans:

 I well remember the way we got into making the syrup can was, at that time . . .I was in the design area.  Whereas we never bought anything without it going through the formal purchasing department, I was pretty free, and if there was anything engineering-wise, production equipment-wise, the sales reps would invariably be referred to me.  So one of these sales representatives working for Baldwin-Lima- Hamilton can-making machinery company had stopped in because they knew that Hershey was making their cocoa cans.  Hershey was making cocoa cans before my time.  We did buy improved machinery during my tenure there, but they were making cocoa cans before my time, for years back. 

 Now then, this can machinery representative, knowing that Hershey made their own cocoa cans, came around.  He just wanted to see was there anything that he could offer from the standpoint of equipment improvement or did we need any help and that sort of thing.  It was while he was there, he learned that we are buying our syrup cans, and he asked, “Gee,” he said, “why wouldn’t you make your own?”

 I said, “I don’t know.  The subject never came up, not in my time, anyhow.  I don’t know really why we aren’t.”

 He said, “Well, how many cans do you make a year?”

 Well, we were making–let me say it was 70 million cans by that time.  He said, “If you make 20 million cans a year, it would pay you to make your own.” 

 And I just said, “Well, we have no idea.  How many people would it take to operate?  What kind of machinery do we need?”

 He said, “I’ll give you a list of the machinery you would need and approximately what kind of attendants you’d need.” 

 He supplied me with that, and on that basis, I went to–Lou Smith was then my superior.  He was VP of engineering.  I went to Lou and we, together, saw the great possibilities in this thing. . .Earl Lehman was the comptroller of Hershey Chocolate at that time.  I remember taking the figures of the cost of the machinery, the cost of the whole project up to him, and he ran it through the cost process, and I know he said, “My goodness, we can’t afford not to make these.”  His figures that he came out with showed that we would realize the cost of the equipment in a year and a half.  He was saying, “Gee, how long is it going to be to get delivery of the machinery?”  It was like nine months or more.  As I recall, going into the business, buying all the machinery, was less than $1 million at that time.  [Laughter]  It was about 1956.  The cost of all of that machinery, for two lines of manufacturing of the entire syrup can, was less than $1 million.  The cost savings would be realized in a year and a half. 

Hershey continued to make its own syrup cans until 1979 when the factory began packaging Hershey’s syrup in 24 ounce plastic bottles.