Almost as soon as the Hershey Chocolate Factory began operating in 1905, visitors wanted to tour the facility to see how Hershey’s milk chocolate was made. The Company began offering formal tours as early as 1910. In 1915 the Hershey Visitors Bureau opened in the Cocoa House as an information center for Hershey’s rapidly growing tourist market. The Visitors Bureau provided information about Hershey’s attractions and provided Admission cards to visitors wishing to tour the factory. Opening in July 1915, the Bureau distributed over 10,000 factory tour admission cards during its first three months.
In 1928 the factory began keeping formal statistics about factory tours. A Factory tour was a popular part of a visit to Hershey. Whether you were coming to Hershey to visit the Park, swim at the pool, enjoy the flowers at the Hershey Gardens or to shop at the Department Store, many people made a factory tour part of their visit to Hershey.
Factory tours were not just for visitors. Many people have fond memories of growing up in Hershey and taking the tour just to get the chocolate provided to visitors at the end of the tour. Frank Simione shared these fond memories in his 1993 oral history interview:
We used to go through the chocolate plant, through the main entrance on Chocolate Avenue. As we entered the main entrance there, they would give you a small cup of chocolate drink, and when you came back [from the tour], they would give you a pack with five bars, which says “Five Famous Hershey Bars.” We used to go over there to get the chocolate drink and get those five little famous bars. They were very little, in a small pack, and sometimes we used to go two and three times in a day, just to receive the chocolate drinks and the chocolate bars. Now, this was done practically every day.
By 1970 almost one million people were touring the factory each year. The factory had never been designed to handle so many people. So many visitors were causing traffic jams downtown, overwhelming the building capacity and creating risks for product safety. Hershey Foods Corporation’s solution was to build Hershey’s Chocolate World, a corporate visitor center that could welcome the millions of people visiting Hershey each year and would teach how Hershey’s milk chocolate is made in a fun and informative way. The last public Chocolate factory tour was held June 29, 1973 and Hershey’s Chocolate World opened the next day.