Which Came First Hershey, PA or Hershey Chocolate?

The Sweetest Place on Earth, welcome to Hershey, Pennsylvania

Hershey products can be found in convenience stores, airports, Christmas stockings, Easter baskets, baking aisles, and at most houses on Halloween. The Hershey Company sweetens lives with products ranging from Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups to Hershey Kisses, but there is also a city named Hershey in Pennsylvania. So, which came first, Hershey’s Chocolate or Hershey, Pennsylvania?

Hershey Chocolate, which first started selling chocolate in 1885, came before Hershey, PA. In 1903 Hershey Chocolate built a new factory in the small town of Derry Church. In 1906 Derry Church was renamed Hershey to honor Milton Hershey and all the improvements he and his company made to the town.

Designing and building the town of Hershey was no small accomplishment. Much of the town was built during the Great Depression, making it an important part of American history. Read on to find out how this town helped solidify the legacy of Milton Hershey and his company.

Hershey – Chocolate Town

Milton Hershey, the founder of the Hershey Company, created Hershey, PA, as a model town for his employees. The town was built to ensure the happiness of Hershey’s employees and their families. The town is complete with attractions like amusement parks, pools, entertainment, and affordable transportation.

Hanging baskets and parked cars line a busy city street

Before Milton Hershey planned and built Hershey, PA, he struggled to start his own candy company. That struggle was not from want of a passion for candy making. Early in life, he completed a four-year apprenticeship with a candymaker and then created his own candy company in Philadelphia. After his first company failed, he tried twice more to start a candy company, but that also failed.

Undeterred, Milton Hershey started The Lancaster Caramel Company, which quickly became popular and was a major success. With his successful caramel company underway, Milton had time to pursue other kinds of candy. He purchased German machines for making chocolate in the late 1800s and began producing different types of chocolate at his caramel company.

The earliest sales record for Hershey Chocolate shows it was sold commercially in 1895. Starting the new century strong, Hershey began marketing the classic Hershey’s Milk Chocolate bars in 1900.

Eventually, Milton Hershey sold his caramel company for a hefty profit, and he began focusing on making chocolate. He relocated to rural Pennsylvania with the dream of building a new factory to mass produce fine milk chocolate, which at the time was a luxury enjoyed by few.

The town Milton returned to was the place of his birth, Derry Church, PA. The area was a small community, but for Milton, it was home. Derry Church also had access to fresh milk, an essential ingredient for Hershey’s chocolate.

Twin smoke stacks with Hershey painted on them

In 1903, construction began on the chocolate factory, around which would eventually be the town of Hershey, Pennsylvania. During the construction of the factory, the planning for the surrounding area began. Milton wanted the city to feel like a close-knit community.

As a part of this community, Milton wanted the following things to be a part of the town.

  • Comfortable family homes
  • Tree-lined streets
  • Parks
  • Theaters
  • Swimming pools
  • Affordable public transportation
  • Amusement rides
  • Quality school districts

Milton Hershey’s vision for the city began to become a reality quickly. While the factory was under construction, plans to build a park were approved, and, less than a year later, Hershey Park was on its way to becoming a place for dancing, roller skating, and relaxing. The town quickly added a trolley, school, theater, and ballfield with a grandstand and bleachers.

Steep roller coaster ride at amusement park in Hershey, Pennsylvania

In 1906, the town was officially named Hershey due to the popularity and growth that came from Hershey’s Chocolate. After that, the company and city continued to grow. Soon the factory space was increased to 18 acres to meet the growing demand for chocolate. Hershey also added another popular product—the Hershey Bar with almonds.

As the company grew, Milton Hershey never forgot about the town of Hershey as he continued to offer his support and money to invest in the community. As a result, the local high school was enlarged, and the town got its first permanent swimming pool in the summer of 1912. The city also added a carousel and water slides in Hershey Park. Another great attraction was the Hershey Zoo, which included gardens and greenhouses for guests to enjoy.

Keystone Answers Fun Fact: Hershey Milk Chocolate bars have been almost everywhere, including in the pockets of astronauts headed to the moon and soldiers on their way to war.

Milton and Kitty Hershey could not have children, so they established a school called Milton Hershey School for kindergarten through 12th grade. They eventually left their fortune to the school to ensure it would continue to serve students. Today, the school remains a thriving place for students and teachers.

Much of the construction in Hershey happened before the Great Depression. Once the Great Depression hit, many families in America lost money and jobs. For many, this was a time of great suffering. Milton Hershey was determined to keep the town of Hershey afloat after the economic crash of 1929.

Stop lights with Chocolate Avenue road sign

Chocolate sales decreased, so Milton Hershey decided to pay employees to work on projects improving the town instead of firing them. Milton even hired more employees. During the Great Depression, the city built a Hershey Museum on Chocolate Avenue, the Hershey Theater for performing arts, more houses, and The Hotel Hershey. All these projects were part of Milton Hershey’s Great Building Campaign. The Great Building Campaign gave 600 unemployed workers jobs during the Great Depression.

This campaign shows Milton’s selflessness and dedication to his workers and Hershey, PA residents. He was determined to keep the people in the town employed, safe, and happy. As a result, Hershey, both the town and the company, were largely unaffected by the Great depression.

Today Hershey, Pennsylvania, is a widely popular place to visit. The rich history woven into the different parts of the Hershey Company’s factory and the surrounding area make for a tasty and educational visit. Some of the attractions built in the early-mid 1900s are still there and have been updated throughout the years.

Hersheypark is a theme/water park with exhilarating roller coasters, water slides, a wave pool, and ZooAmerica. The city continues to thrive as a tourist destination and a permanent place to live.

What Was the Town of Hershey Called Before?

Before Hershey was Hershey, it was called Derry Church. Then, Milton purchased property to build his chocolate factory, and the town proliferated as people began visiting and moving there to work on and at the factory. It was appropriately renamed Hershey as the town transformed into a prosperous city where people were proud to work and live.

Headquarters of the Hershey Company

Hershey is also known as Chocolatetown, USA, and The Sweetest Place on Earth. For over 100 years, the city has been centered around the Hershey Chocolate factory. Still, Hershey residents are also enriched by educational and cultural opportunities like learning at The Milton Hershey School or remembering the city’s history through the years at the local museum.

The city is adorned with streetlights that look like Hershey Kisses, historical banners, and murals depicting significant historical events.

Does Hershey, PA, have an Airport?

Harrisburg International Airport is the closest major airport to Hershey. The airport lies about 11 miles outside the center of Hershey, PA. Even though it is an international airport, it is on the smaller side, so that means flights in and out are more expensive than larger airports.

After that, the closest international airports are Philadelphia International Airport at 102 miles away and Baltimore International Airport at 103 miles away. There is also a smaller, domestic airport near Hershey, Lancaster Airport, which is 28 miles away.

Are All Hershey Products Made in Hershey, PA?

Hershey is still based out of Hershey, PA, but it has added more factories around the United States and the world. The different factories focus on producing various kinds of products.

Bags of chocolatey Hershey candy

Here are a few factory locations and what they make:

  • Stuarts Draft, Virginia – Produces most of the products with peanuts.
  • Hazleton, Pennsylvania – Where Cadbury, Carmello, and Kit Kit products are made.
  • Memphis, Tennessee – Produces Hershey’s gum, mints, and licorice.
  • Hershey, Pennsylvania – Two plants, one makes Hershey’s Milk Chocolate Bars, Milk Chocolate with Almonds Bars, and Kisses, while the other produces irresistible Reese’s products.
  • Sao Paulo, Brazil – Produces Hershey products catered to the taste of Brazilian customers.
  • Mississauga, Canada – Creates Hershey products for Canadian consumers.
  • Mandideep, India – Deals in confectionery and beverages.
  • Seoul, Korea – Makes chocolate, syrup, cocoa, and mint products.
  • Guadalajara, Mexico – Located in the birthplace of chocolate, it produces chocolate, grocery, and beverage products.
  • Makati City, Philippines -this location focuses on sales, marketing, and distribution throughout southern Asia.

A Sweet Place to Experience

Milton Hershey made delicious, high-quality chocolate available to the public. If you’re a chocolate or a sweets lover, you will be right at home in Hershey, PA. Many people thank Milton Hershey for much more than chocolate. The town of Hershey is evidence of the Hershey family’s generosity to those around them.

The Hershey Company and the city of Hershey grew together from their infancy. Today, the company and the city continue to provide sweet treats to people worldwide and a sense of community to those who decide to visit or live in the community.

So the next time you pick up your favorite Hershey treat, remember the legacy behind the Hershey name.

Photo of author


Pennsylvania is my home state; I reside on the original homestead settled by my forefathers in the early 1800s. Surrounded by thousands of acres of state land, I enjoy the serenity and quiet of rural Pennsylvania. I like ATVing, observing wildlife, sitting around the campfire, photography, and hiking.