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Archive for December, 2010

Mapping a community: Hershey’s Sanborn maps

Hershey Chocolate Factory; factory buildings layout.  Detail of 1915 Sanborn Insurance map
Hershey Chocolate Factory; factory buildings layout. Detail of 1915 Sanborn Insurance map


Hershey Community Archives has a wonderful collection of maps and plans that document the construction of individual buildings and the development of the town and its infrastructure.  While most of the maps and plans in the collection are original prints created by Hershey employees or companies hired by Hershey, the collection also includes maps created by third-party organizations for a variety of purposes.  Some of those commercial maps in the collection are Sanborn insurance maps.   

 The Sanborn Company began making fire insurance maps in 1867.  The company was founded by Daniel Alfred Sanborn, a surveyor from Somerville, Massachusetts. The Sanborn Map Company created maps for assessing fire insurance liability in urbanized areas in the United States. The maps include detailed information regarding town and building information in approximately 12,000 U.S. towns and cities from 1867 to 1970.for fire insurance assessment in the U.S. and within several decades became the largest and most successful American map company.  The Sanborn Company sent out legions of surveyors to record the building footprints and relevant details about these buildings in all major urbanized areas regarding their fire liability. It was because of these details and the accuracy of the Sanborn maps, coupled with the Sanborn Company’s standardized symbolization and aesthetic appeal that made the Sanborn Company so successful and their maps so widely utilized.

Sanborn Insurance map, Hershey PA, 1915.  Page detail showing map index

Sanborn Insurance map: Hershey, PA 1915. Detail showing map index

Hershey’s Sanborn maps are large-scale lithographed street plans at a scale of 100 feet to one inch (1:300) on 21 inch by 25 inch sheets of paper.   The volumes contain an enormous amount of information. They are organized as follows: a decorative title page, an index of streets and addresses, and a master index indicating the entirety of the mapped area and the sheet numbers for each large-scale map (usually depicting four to six blocks) and general information such as population, economy and prevailing wind direction. The maps include outlines of each building and outbuilding, the location of windows and doors, street names, street and sidewalk widths, property boundaries, fire walls, natural features (rivers, canals, etc), railroad corridors, building use (sometimes even particular room uses), house and block number, as well as the composition of building materials including the framing, flooring, and roofing materials, the strength of the local fire department, indications of sprinkler systems, locations of fire hydrants, location of water and gas mains and even the names of most public buildings, churches and companies.

Hershey Community Archives has 6 Sanborn insurance maps in its collection that document different parts of Hershey. Recently the Library of Congress digitized and posted on its American Memory website  Hershey’s first Sanborn map which was published in 1915.  The map consists of 4 pages and documents the town as it existed in 1915.  It is a wonderful snapshot of the community that had recently celebrated its 10th anniversary in 1913. 

For more information about the Archives’ map collection or its other holdings, please contact the Archives.

Learning the business



Trade card; Milton Hershey's first business, Philadelphia, PA.   ca.1876

Trade card; Milton Hershey's first business, Philadelphia, PA. ca.1876

Milton Hershey launched his first business venture in Philadelphia in 1876, opening a confectionery shop and wholesale business. That year the city was hosting an international exposition celebrating the nation’s centennial anniversary. Hershey’s shop was located at 935 Spring Garden Street, a main pathway to Fairmount Park and the Centennial Exposition. Milton hoped to take advantage of the large crowds anticipated and his business card pictured the Exhibition Machinery Hall.


His first shop was too small and a few years later Hershey moved down the street to larger quarters at 925 & 927 Spring Garden Street for his retail business and also established a separate wholesale business at 532 Linden Street. Milton worked long hours. Sometimes he was so exhausted that he had to knock his head against the wall to keep from falling asleep on his feet. Many nights he did not go home, but slept at the store under the counter.


The Philadelphia market proved unyielding even to long hours and youthful ingenuity. He was turning out a good line of candy, but his investment was small. He had neither equipment nor staff sufficient for the mass production and quick turnover needed to make money out of penny goods. Though sales kept up with production, he was not able to produce enough to keep ahead of his bills. He fell behind in payments, and live in fear of impatient sugar dealers suddenly cutting off his raw materials.


Instead of concentrating on one product, Hershey produced a variety of goods in an effort to appeal to everybody. Besides candy, he sold fruit and nuts. He made ice cream. On the Fourth of July one year he paid a German Band to play in front of the store while he served ice cream at five cents a plate to the crowd.


With increased production, there had to be more help to keep his stock moving. In 1880 he hired Harry Lebkicher, who had been a clerk in a Lancaster lumberyard.


In 1881 his father, Henry Hershey, arrived. It is said he worked for four dollars a week, peddling Milton’s candy – not because he could have done better for himself, but because he wanted to help his son make a good start. Henry Hershey was a man both of imagination and of action. “If you want to make money,” he said to his son, “you have got to do things in a big way.”

Letter:  Milton Hershey to Uncle Abraham Snavely; 01/14/1881

Letter: Milton Hershey to Uncle Abraham Snavely; 01/14/1881

To support his son’s business Henry Hershey designed a new a new candy display cabinet for his son to market and also developed a recipe for a medicated cough candy. In the December 1880 issue of the Confectioners’ Journal, Milton Hershey placed a large ad featuring the candy cabinets and cough drop candies.


Unfortunately there was not enough financing to support another venture and Milton Hershey slid further into debt each month. Hershey appealed to his mother’s brother, Abraham Snavely, for repeated loans but was soon rebuffed by his uncle who had little regard for Henry Hershey.


Within the year Milton Hershey’s first business venture would collapse in bankruptcy. While the end of this business was not happy, Milton Hershey learned many lessons about supply, credit, cash flow and the importance of limiting your product line that he would put to use more profitably in future business ventures.