Milton Hershey passed away on October 13, 1945 in Hershey Hospital. While he had placed the bulk of his fortune into a trust for the Milton Hershey School in 1918, his continued financial success during the rest of his life created an estate valued at almost $900,000. Mr. Hershey’s will directed that his estate be used to create another trust fund. This one would benefit Derry Township’s public schools.
Rarely sentimental, Milton Hershey’s will will directed that all his personal belongings be sold at auction, with the proceeds to be added to his estate. To comply with his wishes, an auction was held at the Community Building on Monday and Tuesday, December 17-18, 1945.
Many protested the sale, wanting to keep his personal belongings intact. They argued that his possessions, which included furniture, rugs, linens, draperies, framed photographs, books, paintings, multiple sets of flatware and dinnerware, and his personal jewelry, belonged in the Hershey Museum. Apparently his executors, William F.R. Murrie, Ezra Hershey, and William H. Earnest, agreed. While the bulk of his personal belongings were sold at auction, the furniture that had filled Milton Hershey’s second floor apartment at the Hershey Country Club (High Point) was removed from the sale and Hershey Estates purchased these items. For many years the furniture was exhibited at the Hershey Museum as a memorial to Milton Hershey.
The Milton S. Hershey Estate auction was held in the Community Building Social Room. There were afternoon and evening sessions with a large attendance of buyers and the simply curious. It appears that there was something for everyone. The auction flyer highlighted large collections of Cauldron, Coalport and Dresden china, rare ivory pieces, cut glass, bronze statuary, silverware, oil paintings, linens and fine furniture. The Auction was handled by L.J. Gilbert and Son, Lebanon, PA auctioneers.
The sale raised just over $17,000 helping to create an Testamentary Trust Fund endowment of about $900,000. Since its creation the trust fund has made semi-annual payments to the Derry Township School District with the goal of helping to mitigate public taxes paid in support of Hershey’s public schools.