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Archive for August 14th, 2012

A Picture Sometimes Needs a Few Words

Often, when we are processing a collection, we come across a photo that raises more questions than answers.  Take this photo as an example:


Dinner party on Hotel Hershey lawn

Dinner party on Hotel Hershey lawn




A close study of the photo does provide some clues.  The background  shows the pergolas and reflecting pools of the Hotel Hershey formal gardens.  So we know that the dinner took place at the Hotel Hershey.  Using a magnifying glass to study the faces of the dinner guests helped me to discover that Milton Hershey was seated at the circular table in the center of the table arrangement.  He is dressed in a white suit with his left arm resting on the back of his chair.  The president of the Hershey Chocolate Corporation, Bill Murrie, is seated on his right.


Fortunately, the Archives is filled with resources and collections that can provide answers and help illuminate sometimes mysterious photos.


Between 1934 and 1951, Hershey published a weekly newsletter, the Hotel Hershey Highlights.  This publication served as a community newspaper, providing information about events throughout the community.  A headline on the front page of the June 13, 1936 issue, introduced a pertinent article:


Civic and Country Clubs Entertain M.S. Hershey in a Setting Unusually Artistic


While there was no photo published with the article, it describes the dinner and table placement, making the photograph understandable.  Here is an excerpt from the article:


    A dinner party for M.S. Hershey, founder of the community that bears his name, took place on the lawn of the Hotel Hershey on the night of June 3.

    The setting was unusually artistic.  With the moon shedding its rays on the countryside and picturesque white pergolas and evergreen shrubbery for a background, tables to seat two hundred guests were arranged like the spokes of a wheel.  At the hub of the wheel sat Mr. Hershey, who came to the site of the present Hershey when it was a cornfield thirty-three years ago.

    The dinner was arranged by members of the Hershey Civic Club and the Hershey Country Club as a token of appreciation.  The keynote was expressed by Richard Von Ezdorf, president of the Civic Club.. . .

The article goes on to describe the speakers and the gifts presented to Milton Hershey. One of the gifts was a leather bound book containing the signatures of all the guests and the inscription:


    As an outward expression of gratitude for your many kindnesses to us, we are in this manner thanking you.  What we feel within ourselves must be expressed individually and in many ways.  We want you to know and feel that your gracious entertainment of us, your constant desire to smooth our paths of work and play, and your sympathy for and patience with us is fully and sincerely appreciated.

    May your reward be greater than any one of us can give you — the satisfaction of a job well done.


Putting the photograph and article together, we suddenly can visualize the event and understand the significance of the photo.