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Creating a Legacy: Milton S. Hershey’s trust fund for Derry Township public schools

Mourners paid their respects at Milton Hershey's gravesite, Hershey Cemetery. 10/16/1945

Mourners paid their respects at Milton Hershey’s gravesite, Hershey Cemetery. 10/16/1945


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.


Flyer: M.S. Hershey Estate Auction, December 17 & 18, 1945

Flyer: M.S. Hershey Estate Auction, December 17 & 18, 1945

Flyer: M.S. Hershey Estate Auction, December 17 & 18, 1945, reverse side

Flyer: M.S. Hershey Estate Auction, December 17 & 18, 1945, reverse side


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.


Some of the items from Milton S. Hershey's estate that were sold at auction on December 17-18, 1945.

Some of the items from Milton S. Hershey’s estate that were sold at auction on December 17 & 18, 1945.


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.

Back to School! Again!

Dedication of the M.S. Hershey Consolidated School. 1914

Dedication of the M.S. Hershey Consolidated School. 1914


By now, students everywhere are back in school.  We can definitely feel it here in Hershey, as Hersheypark has closed, except for a few more weekends, and Hershey residents can drive through town without being slowed by tourist traffic.


Hershey residents take pride in the quality of our public school system.  Good schools were valued by Milton Hershey and he made significant contributions to ensure that Hershey children would have access to a quality education.


2014 marks the centennial of Milton Hershey’s first significant gift to Hershey’s public schools: the M.S. Hershey Consolidated School of Derry Township.  Dedicated on October 13, 1914, the M.S. Hershey Consolidated School offered education for grades 1-12.  The building had 18 class rooms on three floors, a kindergarten, library, bathrooms, playrooms and lunch rooms.


Class portrait, Derry Township School District. ca.1920-1930

Class portrait, Derry Township School District. ca.1920-1930


The building was designed to serve up to 850 students.  Students began their academic career as kindergartners on the first level and literally worked their way through the building, grade by grade.  Students finally made their way to the top floor for their High School years.


Hershey Junior-Senior High School, graduating class.  ca.1925-1950

Hershey Junior-Senior High School, graduating class. ca.1925-1950


This school building was only one of many gifts Milton Hershey would make to the Derry Township School District during his lifetime.    You can read more about the history of Hershey public education here and here.


Bringing educational innovation to Hershey

The school year started that year on Monday, August 24, 1914.  Hershey public schools had been growing rapidly since Milton Hershey opened his chocolate factory in 1905.  Milton Hershey’s vision for changing the shape of public education in rural central Pennsylvania was first hinted at when he urged the Derry Township School District to establish a public high school, even though there was no town and farming was the predominant industry.


That high school opened in 1905, and while the graduating classes were small at first (2 students were in the first graduating class), the student body expanded along with the town.


Even though the McKinley School was enlarged in 1911, the school district quickly outgrew the expanded building. Enlarging the McKinley School was part of the school district’s plan to centralize and eliminate the rest of Derry Township’s 14 one room schools.   The paint had barely dried on the walls when Hershey realized that a new larger school was needed.  In 1912 Hershey announced plans to build a new school building that would permit the rest of the one room schools to be closed.





Construction for Hershey's new "Central School" began in 1913.

Construction for Hershey's new "Central School" began in 1913.



Construction began in 1913 with plans that the building would be ready for the start of the 1914-1915 academic year.  The building was completed in time and school year commenced on August 24 with 600 children enrolled.




M.S. Hershey Consolidated School opened Monday, August 31, 1914

M.S. Hershey Consolidated School opened Monday, August 24, 1914



The modern building was built with room to spare.  Its capacity was 850 students.  The modern facility featured 18 school rooms for grades kindergarten through 12th.   The school also included separate lunch rooms for boys and girls, a library, gymnasium, music room and play rooms for recess when the weather was bad.


I stand here very happy that I have been able to do what I have done for the public schools of Derry Township.  Milton S. Hershey, remarks at dedication ceremony, October 18, 1914. 


The building was dedicated on Tuesday, October 18, 1914.  The date of the ceremony was scheduled to permit the attendance of state educational leaders.  As a community event, more than a thousand people toured the building prior to the ceremony.  The program began at 1:30 p.m. and featured music provided by the Hershey Band, speeches by the School Board president, the Pennsylvania Secretary of Internal Affairs, and greetings from area school superintendents.


In their remarks, speakers  lauded the building  for its innovation and the opportunities it offered to the students.  Milton Hershey was praised for his generosity.  As the Hershey Press newspaper wrote in its summary of the event: 


 It was more, far more, than the dedication of a building–it was the dedication of an idea.  It is doing today what will be done tomorrow in all parts of the United States, the combining of small schools into central institutions fully equipped for the instruction of the boys and girls and with the advantages which the Hershey School offers.

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.