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Archive for May, 2014

Providing for the community: Hershey Hospital

Milton Hershey’s commitment to providing a wide range of services was impressive.  While opportunities for education, recreation and cultural activities have often been described in various publications and other venues, his commitment to ensuring the health of his community is not often discussed.


Hershey’s first health facility opened in 1918 in response to a devastating influenza epidemic. As need grew,  a health clinic opened in 1921 and Hershey’s first hospital was established in 1924.  Located in the Gingrich house on East Chocolate Avenue (just across the street from the chocolate factory), it offered 10 beds.  Nurses’ quarters were provided in Fanny Hershey’s old house next door.


Aerial view:  Chocolate Avenue; Fanny Hershey home (nurses' quarters) and first Hershey Hospital visible in lower right.

Aerial view: Chocolate Avenue; Fanny Hershey home (nurses’ quarters) and first Hershey Hospital visible in lower right.


When the Community Building was completed in 1932, the hospital moved to the building’s 5th floor.  The ambulance entrance was located on Caracas Avenue.  This hospital held 20 beds. Nurses’ quarters were located on the 6th floor.  At the same time, a separate infirmary was built on the campus of Hershey Industrial School (now Milton Hershey School).  This clinic was created to provide healthcare for the school boys.


In 1941 Hershey Hospital merged with the Hershey Industrial School Infirmary.  It was located on Rt. 322.

In 1941 Hershey Hospital merged with the Hershey Industrial School Infirmary. It was located on Rt. 322.


However, as it turned out, the new infirmary was under-utilized.  The students’ health was generally good.  So, on March 15, 1941 the Hershey Hospital and the Hershey Industrial School Infirmary were consolidated and  Hershey’s hospital moved to the red brick facility on Governor Road.  This location offered 50-70 beds, an operating room and dental and orthodontic departments.


Hershey Hospital, operating room. ca.1934

Hershey Hospital, operating room. ca.1934


At the new Hershey Hospital, patients could be hospitalized for uncomplicated childbirth, minor surgery, and important but not life threatening illnesses.  Hershey relied on specialists and surgeons to provide services not offered by the community’s general practice doctors.  Complicated medical conditions required patients to be transferred to other area hospitals in Harrisburg, Lebanon and Lancaster.  Hershey Hospital was an important part of the community’s health services for many years.


Hershey Hospital bed with breathing blanket covering.  ca.1934

Hershey Hospital bed with breathing blanket covering. ca.1934


In 1963, plans to build a teaching hospital and medical school in Derry Township were announced.  On October 14, 1970, Hershey Hospital closed and its patients were transferred to the Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center.  While many in the community mourned the closing of the community hospital, the Hershey Med Center brought a whole new level of sophisticated and cutting edge medical care to the region.


Want to know more? Check out the Archives’ oral history collection for more stories about medical practice and the role Hershey Hospital played in the community.

Great things sometimes start small: H.B. Reese and the Reese Candy Company

Advertisement; Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, 1963

Advertisement; Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, 1963


Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups are one of the United States best loved candies.  First introduced around 1928, the PB cups were not a stand-alone treat, but were marketed as part of an assortment of candies that you could buy by the weight.

They were named for their creator, Harry Burnett Reese.  Unlike Milton Hershey, it was not obvious that Harry Reese was destined to become a confectioner.  His background included stints as a farmer, dairy farmer, fish hatchery manager and factory worker.  All these varied jobs resulted from Reese’s efforts to support his rapidly growing family.  The jobs took him from York County to Ditchley, Virginia back to York County and then to New Freedom, Pennsylvania and finally to Hershey to work as a dairy farmer for Milton Hershey.  None of these jobs prepared him for his future success.

But Harry Reese was impressed with Milton Hershey and the success Mr. Hershey had achieved with the Hershey Chocolate Company.  Needing to support his family, Reese started making candy in his kitchen at night and marketing it around town and wherever he thought there might be customers.  The first years were challenging and offered little promise of his future success.

The Archives’ oral history collections contains interviews with a number of H.B. Reese’s children as well as workers.  His oldest daughter, Mary Elizabeth Reese Pearson, shared her memories of her father’s first efforts at candy making.  Born in 1901, Mary was old enough to vividly remember those early years.

Interviewer:  Right.  Tell me about the time frame when he started to make the hard candy.


Oh.  Well, that was in 1919, the very first thing.  He met an old man by the name of Mr. Bender up in Harrisburg at a market, where, you know, people bring in candies and things.  And Mr. Bender gave him the recipe for these hard candies and he started making them, shipping them out by the barrel.  It wasn’t long that he found his business wasn’t succeeding because the candy was sticking.  It wasn’t holding up, see.  That failed.

Interviewer: What did he try next?


I think maybe he tried different things, but the main–the one big thing he was doing when I was at Temple University in 1920 to ’22 was a bar called–he called a Lizzy Bar.  It was a chocolate bar, and I don’t know who gave him the recipe for the chocolate, but it started to sugar, see.  So that bar went off the market.

Interviewer: It was named after you?


Uh-huh.  It was named after me.  Because my roommate in those days called me Lizzy Bar.  [Laughter]  And he’d send me boxes of this candy.  It was wrapped in a very beige-looking background with brown printing.

Then I think after that, most of his–oh.  He was making another coconut caramel bar that was very popular for a while.  Some man had given him the recipe for this coconut caramel, and the coconut was fresh coconuts–grated!  He didn’t have a factory then; he just had a kitchen.  So Poppy would go around three o’clock in the morning and start opening coconuts, fresh coconuts, and had them all peeled and ground, ready to make this coconut caramel candy.  In the summertime, he would shape it in bars, see, and roll it in coconut, and take a whole carload [read “automobile”] of it over to Mount Gretna, where the government had a lot of soldiers over there, spending the summer over there at Mount Gretna.  So then in the wintertime, he would cover it with chocolate, see, and sell it.  So that was his third thing that was keeping him that he wasn’t completely out of business, see.  He was still doing something.

So then I don’t know what year he started making all the different sort of candies and absolutely every center of that candy was delicious.  He had dates that he–  It was like a sausage grinder thing.  The dates would go in there and they’d come out, and something would cut them off in little pieces.  I was coating candies in those days, and if we were coating dates, they’d all be little cut-up pieces, and [we would] lay it in the Hershey’s chocolate, see.  He always used Mr. Hershey’s coating, see.

And then that candy was put into these little tiny round cups and went out as assorted.  So one day we’d make coated dates, the next day we’d make–he learned how to make a wonderful fondant, see.  Delicious fondant.  That’s how he made all these different assorted candies, see.    I can’t tell you how many were in the box, but the box–it all went out wholesale, five-pound box for $1.29, to mostly big stores like Bon Tons and stores in Lancaster, and they would sell it out by the quarter and half-pound.

The business had a lot of ups and downs until H.B. Reese decided to concentrate on making peanut butter cups starting about 1941.  You can read the whole story here on the Archive’s website.  Just make sure you have some Reese’s peanut butter cups handy.  You’re going to want some!