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HersheyArchives@30:22 Service Above Self – Hershey Rotary Club

Charter for the Rotary Club of Hershey. 6/10/1943

Charter for the Rotary Club of Hershey. 6/10/1943


Community organizations are the lifeblood of a town. They provide residents with opportunities to meet and socialize with each other while working to enhance community life.  These groups enrich their communities while giving their members a sense of purpose and contributing to the community. The Archives actively collects the records of Hershey’s community businesses and organizations and is fortunate to hold the records of several community groups.


Y.M.C.A.’s Busy Men’s Doggy Bow-Wow meets for a celebratory meal in the Hershey Café. 3/1913

Y.M.C.A.’s Busy Men’s Doggy Bow-Wow meets for a celebratory meal in the Hershey Café. 3/1913


Community groups began to form shortly after the Hershey Chocolate factory began operations in 1905.  The organizations varied from the critically needed Hershey Volunteer Fire Company to the purely social Men’s Doggy Bow-Wow Club (?!).


Hershey Volunteer Fire Company was organized in 1905.

Hershey Volunteer Fire Company was organized in 1905.


Hershey’s community groups enhanced Hershey’s social life by creating community gatherings such as the annual Christmas tree lighting, presenting annual concerts, and organizing food and clothing collections for the less fortunate.


The Hershey Civic Club sponsored a variety of youth sports teams, including a junior ice hockey team.  This 1941 team included (left-right) 1st row: Irv Gonz, Bob Evans, Jack Bernard, Dick Brunner. 2nd row: Endo Corsetti, Sterling Sechrist, Bud Prowell, Herb Erdman, Dick Stover.

The Hershey Civic Club sponsored a variety of youth sports teams, including a junior ice hockey team. This 1941 team included (left-right) 1st row: Irv Gonz, Bob Evans, Jack Bernard, Dick Brunner. 2nd row: Endo Corsetti, Sterling Sechrist, Bud Prowell, Herb Erdman, Dick Stover.


Civic clubs in particular play an important role, working to improve neighborhoods through volunteer work by its members. During the 1930s, Hershey had a local Civic Club, which sponsored community clean-up days, organized various community celebrations, and raised money to help support other local organizations.


Since there was already a civic club in Hershey, initially there was little interest in starting a Rotary club, despite urging from Rotary clubs in Elizabethtown and Harrisburg. All that changed in 1943 when D. Paul Witmer, the head of Hershey Industrial School [Milton Hershey School], attended a Rotary meeting in Elizabethtown.  “Pop” Britton, manager of the Hershey Community Center and member of the Palmyra Rotary, also encouraged John B. Sollenberger, president of Hershey Estates, to consider starting a new Rotary club.  With interest from two of Hershey’s business leaders, a new Rotary club was soon in the works.  It was decided that the members of Hershey’s Civic Club would be invited to join the new Rotary club.


One of the Hershey Rotary Club’s first activities was to sponsor a local business expo. Pictured here are the club’s organizers. left-right: Carl Britton, Harry.N. Herr, T. Egan, Albert Schmidt, John.B. Sollenberger, Edwin Wagner, Harry Erdman, D. Paul Witmer, W. Allen Hammond.

One of the Hershey Rotary Club’s first activities was to sponsor a local business expo. Pictured here are the club’s organizers. left-right: Carl Britton, Harry.N. Herr, T. Egan, Albert Schmidt, John.B. Sollenberger, Edwin Wagner, Harry Erdman, D. Paul Witmer, W. Allen Hammond.


The first meeting was held June 2, 1943 in the Hershey Community Building dining room.  John B. Sollenberger was elected president, and the charter was presented to the club on June 14, 1943.



President                            John B. Sollenberger

Vice President                   Carl T. Britton

Secretary                             W. Allen Hammond

Treasurer                            D. Paul Witmer

Sargent at Arms                 Raymond H. Koch

Directors:                            Harry Erdman, Harry N. Herr, Edwin S. Wagner


There were 29 charter members and Milton S. Hershey was made an honorary member.  The first regular meeting was on June 21, 1943 also in the dining room of the Community Building.


In the beginning, the Hershey Rotary Club partnered with the Hershey Civic Club on a number of projects. The first joint project was the Cocoa Bean game, a football game pitting Milton Hershey School against Hershey’s public high school.  The competition was first held in 1943 to raise money for Memorial Field, Hershey’s local outdoor recreation center.


Children have always been a focus of Rotary support and beginning in 1958, the Hershey Rotary Club began an enduring program of sponsoring international student exchanges.


Founders Day drew the entire community together to celebrate the life and legacy of Milton Hershey. 9/12/1953

Founders Day drew the entire community together to celebrate the life and legacy of Milton Hershey. 9/12/1953


Hershey Rotary Club often took the lead in organizing community celebrations. In 1950, the club organized Founders Day, a day to remember Mr.Hershey.


The club’s biggest fund raiser, its annual auction, began in 1968. At first the entire proceeds of the auction were donated to the Hershey Volunteer Fire Company. Today, auction proceeds are shared with a wide variety of community and regional non-profit groups.


Today Hershey Rotary Club continues to serve the community of Hershey through its commitment to “Service Above Self.”




Archivesat30 headerl


2015 marks the 30th anniversary of the Hershey Community Archives.  It’s a personal anniversary for me as well.  On February 2, 2015, I arrived in Hershey to start my first day of work creating an archives for the corporations and community of Hershey.  I remember feeling pretty overwhelmed by this challenge to start an archives from scratch.  I was young, just a couple years out of graduate school, and with limited experience.


I didn’t know much about the history of this community.  As records were collected, I was also building a knowledge base about Milton Hershey and his sizable legacy.  Because so little had been written about Hershey, much of what I learned about Hershey came from studying the documents I was charged with organizing and preserving.


Today the Hershey Community Archives’ collections occupies over 6,000 cubic feet of shelf space.  Our collections contain business records, packaging samples, photographs, maps, plans, film, various video formats, slides, oral histories and a growing collection of electronic records. It is a rich resource for understanding Milton Hershey and the history of everything he established.


In recognition of the Archives’ 30th anniversary, we will be highlighting 30 items from the collections that help us tell important stories of Hershey’s past.  They’ll be posted throughout the year.


I’ve also spent some time compiling a timeline of the Archives’ history.  The timeline highlights significant moments in the Archives’ growth and evolution.  You can see the timeline here.


What a way to make a living! Working at the Hershey Chocolate factory

The wrapping department poses in front of Hershey Chocolate factory offices.  1915

The wrapping department poses in front of Hershey Chocolate factory offices. 1915

The original Hershey Chocolate factory closed this spring after 107 years of service. Chocolate making is still in Hershey as operations were moved down the street to the newly expanded West Hershey plant. The original factory and its iconic smokestacks will remain part of the Hershey landscape. Over the next several years the building will be repurposed.

During its life as a chocolate factory, the Hershey Chocolate factory defined the community, providing steady work for residents of the town and surrounding area while adding a sweet, chocolatey scent to the air.

Who were these workers and what was it like to work at the original chocolate factory? The Archives recently created a case exhibit in The Hershey Story lobby to showcase some of the archival materials in the collection that provide insight into worker lives. In particular the Archive’s oral history and photograph collections help us to better understand what working in the factory was like.

Women with gingham aprons label and pack cocoa tins.  ca.1925-1935

Women with gingham aprons label and pack cocoa tins. ca.1925-1935

I was new.  I was scared of getting lost.  I didn’t know the way around, you know.  You had to go through two long corridors, five flights of steps, and you went in there.  Those days we had aprons, gingham aprons, and white caps we wore.  You went in and went to your machine.  You had to be there.  When your machine started up, there was no waiting.  You’d better be there, you know.  One time I was reprimanded.  You only were reprimanded once.  You didn’t want to be reprimanded again. (Interview with Mary Bonawitz, 1996)

Employee "stick" almonds to make sure the almonds are completely coated in chocolate.  1950

Employee "stick" almonds to make sure the almonds are completely coated in chocolate. 1950

When you stuck almonds, you got bored.  It was hot and you had to fight sleep sometimes.  You start in work at ten minutes of six, coming up to your department, you know.  You had to be there.  And it was so hot.  And in one position for five hours, there was a tendency to get drowsy.  And if you wanted to talk to your partner, it was all lip reading.  But we caught on very well.  We had fun. (Interview with Mary Bonawitz, 1996)

To learn more about Hershey Chocolate workers and what it was like to work in the chocolate factory, stop by The Hershey Story and check out our exhibit case.  To learn more about the Archives’ photograph and oral history collections, visit the Archives’ website.

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.

Mourning Milton Hershey

Paying his respects to Milton Hershey at the Hershey Cemetery, 10/16/1945

Paying his respects to Milton Hershey at the Hershey Cemetery, 10/16/1945


Until his death , Milton Hershey’s interest in new ideas and his concern for the well being of others remained a constant thread in his life. He lived to see the end of World War II and died on October 13, 1945, one month after his 88th birthday. True to his priorities, his will directed that his estate be used to establish a trust fund benefitting Hershey’s public school system. On the day of his funeral, the town came to a halt. Thousands honored him at a viewing and funeral service held at Senior Hall. Afterwards he was laid to rest alongside his parents and his wife, Kitty, in the Hershey Cemetery.


Gordon Rentschler, who had worked with Milton Hershey for 30 years and was chairman of the Board for National City Bank of New York, sent a telegram of condolences which included this memory of the man:


“I admired him from the beginning. It was always an inspiration to see the way he calmly and quietly and tenaciously fought his way through one obstacle after the other until he achieved his big success. And it was an inspiration, too, to find that he measured success, not in dollars, but in terms of a good product to pass on to the public, and still more in the usefulness of those dollars for the benefit of his fellow men. His life and work will always remain a great inspiration to us all.”

Hershey’s Y.M.C.A.

YMCA, Busy Men's Gym Class, ca. 1912-1913

YMCA, Busy Men's Gym Class, ca. 1912-1913

The Y.M.C.A. [Young Men’s Christian Association] was first established in London, England in 1844, in response to poor living conditions resulting from the industrial revolution. The goal of the organization was the “improvement of the spiritual, mental, social and physical condition of young men.” YMCAs quickly spread to the United States. A chapter was established in Harrisburg in 1854 and in Lancaster in 1859.


The Hershey Chocolate Factory had only been open four years when Milton Hershey proposed organizing a YMCA in Hershey. The Cocoa House, located at the intersection of Chocolate and Cocoa Avenues, was expanded with the construction of a gymnasium, sixty by ninety feet. It included a mezzanine level running track that encircled the gym, which was also used as a spectator gallery for basketball games. A large swimming pool, locker rooms, and showers were constructed in the basement. The new addition also included a game room, with billiard tables, pool tables and a shuffleboard.


Hershey’s new newspaper, “Hershey Press,” heavily promoted the new organization, running front page stories about YMCAs almost every week during the fall of 1909. By December 17 the paper listed 85 people as the first members of the new organization. The “Y” officially opened February 3, 1910 with an open house and lecture.


YMCA quickly became an important part of Hershey’s recreational and cultural life. True to the national organization’s commitment to encourage the development of men’s body, minds and spirit, the Hershey “Y” offered a variety of exercise programs and organized a variety of sports teams, including basketball, football and baseball teams. It hosted lectures and performances for the community. The “Y” also offered boarding rooms for single men and housed a reading room.


In 1914 the Hershey discontinued its association with the national YMCA. The program was reorganized as the Hershey’s Men’s Club which continued the programs of the “Y” but operated as an independent organization.

Heart of the Community: Hershey’s Community Building



Hershey Community Building, 1933
Hershey Community Building, 1933


Originally planned for 1916 and finally constructed during Hershey’s Great Building Campaign of the 1930s, the goal of the building was to provide entertainment and recreation, as well as to fulfill educational and civic functions for the entire town. World War I and subsequent financial challenges for Hershey Chocolate Company delayed its construction.  Finally in November 1928 ground was broken.  The building was completed in September 1932 and officially dedicated in September 1933 as part of the Town’s 30th anniversary celebration.

The primary function of the Building’s recreational facilities was for the use of the Hershey Men’s Club.  The Men’s Club offered an extensive range of programs and activities for the boys and men of Hershey.  The facilities were very impressive.

Game Room: 180 feet long, contains four bowling alleys, a court for practicing driving golf ball or putting, three shuffleboard tables, four ping pong tables, five pocket billiard tables for men, one billiard table for boys, a table for curoque, and a section devoted to games for boys in addition to tables for cards, checkers, chess, etc.

Game Room, Community Building; ca. 1932-1942

Game Room, ca.1932-1942

On same floor is a swimming pool 75 feet long by 25 feet wide, 3 – 9 1/2  feet deep,  with three spring boards.  Separate showers for men and boys
Community Building Swimming Pool, ca. 1950-1960 
Gymnasium:  (80 x 44 feet with 35 foot ceiling) for class work, volley ball, basketball, softball, badminton and special exercising rooms as well as two courts for four-wall hand ball, also can be used as squash courts.
Men's Club Junior Division, Community Building Gymnasium, ca.1935

Men's Club Junior Division, Community Building Gymnasium, ca.1935

The Archives oral history collections contain many memories of the Community Building and how important it was to the residents, particularly the children.  Many men shared memories of their childhoods spending afternoons and evenings at the Community Building:

Frank Simione (93OH02):

In the early years, from starting at my eighth birthday, we belonged to the Hershey Community Building, which at that time was called Community Club for us, where they had the Hershey hospital on the sixth floor, later became the Hershey Junior College. At eight years old, we belonged to this Community Building, where we learned all the athletic sports, all types of games. I think it was three dollars for six months, and you started as a cadet and went up to a junior, and then you went into intermediate, then you went into a senior program.

Spending all that time and all those years there, I learned many athletic games and as much as all the small games that you would play, like checkers and dominos and pool and ping-pong and bowling. We were fortunate to have this facility. At the time, we didn’t know any better, but as we grew, and later on in life, we found that that was a beautiful place for kids to go.

To learn more about the Archives’ oral history collections use this link to visit the Archives online collections database.


New machinery for the factory installed

Hershey Press, 1909 original masthead
Hershey Press, 1909 original masthead





The Hershey Press issue dated September 17, 1909 carried a variety of articles about the community and Chocolate factory as well as printing ads from Hershey owned and independent businesses.

One of my favorite columns was titled: Hershey Briefs: Items About You, Your Neighbors and Things in General.  Illnesses, individual’s trips to Harrisburg and Lancaster, comments about people who dropped in to visit the Press office, parties, practical jokes, bowling competitions and related events were appropriate for this column.  It reminds me of today’s Facebook postings:  the information in the column varied in significance and interest.

The Hershey Press is also a great resource for documenting the growth and development of the community.  On the front page of this issue, the Press carried an article about the installation of a new pastor at Derry Presbyterian Church, one about the contents of a large freight train delivering materials to Hershey and an article noting the completion of a new addition to the Hershey Chocolate Factory for the Longitudinal department.  I found the article 9-17-1909-longitudinal-machines




 particularly helpful because this short article helped the Archives date this photograph of the new department:


Hershey Chocolate Factory, Longitudinal department, ca.1909

Hershey Chocolate Factory, Longitudinal department, ca.1909

The article and photograph also bring  to life architectural plans in the Archives collections for a new addition to the factory on a 1909 insurance map.  The plan {87FP01.1} notes that the new building held “about 30 Grinders for finishing chocolate”  operated by “220 volt motors.

Curry Mill Fire

3b068.2  Curry Mill fire, 1914

Aftermath of the Curry Mill fire, 1914


Hershey published a weekly newspaper from 1909 to 1926.  It is a wonderful resource for learning more about the community’s early years.  Recently the Archives was able to have the newspaper digitized and indexed.  The paper can be accessed through the Archives’ website, on the “Collections and Research” page.


 The newspaper, The Hershey Press,” was published under a variety of names, including Hershey’s Weekly,’ “Hershey’s Progressive Weekly,” and simply “Hershey Press.”


Often the newspaper provides more detailed information about events documented in photographs from the collection.  A search for “Curry & fire”  returned this article that provides detailed information about the tragedy.  The photograph is brought to life by the information.


 While caption recorded on the back of this photograph indicated that it had been taken after the 1914 Curry Mill fire, no other information existed about this tramatic event.  Searching the Hershey Press database for more information about the fire provided important details.  The fire broke out during Saturday night, May 30, 1914.  When the alarm was given and fire fighters arrived, their efforts were hampered by a lack of water with which to fight it.  It wasn’t until a railroad steamer filled with water arrived several hours later that the fire fighters were able to put out the blazes in the mill and coal piles.  For the full story check out the  Hershey Press online.