Milton Hershey’s Birthday: A Timeline of Celebrations
Over the years, Milton Hershey celebrated his birthdays with Hershey Industrial School students, Hershey employees, and local community members. From large gatherings full of music and entertainment to intimate dinners that celebrated the hard work of Hershey farms, Mr. Hershey’s birthdays were a chance for the community to come together and celebrate a man who always put others before himself.
Take a look at some of Mr. Hershey’s birthday celebrations in the 1930s and 1940s!
On Monday, Sept. 13 at 7:45 p.m., Hershey employees invited Milton Hershey to a birthday party in his honor at the Hershey Arena. Over 6,000 employees and their families gathered to celebrate Milton Hershey’s 80th birthday. His birthday cake was three feet high and included 80 electric candles. Mr. Hershey was serenaded by four local bands, and there was ice cream and cake for everyone.
Milton Hershey’s 81st birthday was also a community event, but this time, Mr. Hershey planned it. Residents and workers were invited to the Hershey Arena for an evening of entertainment, including vaudeville acts and musical performances by high school bands.
Along with dancing and refreshments, employees presented Mr. Hershey with a birthday greeting. The message read:
On this your eighty first birthday we give to you these red roses, one for each year of your life. They are symbols of our devotion and love, and tokens of our appreciation for your unceasing efforts in helping us to find happiness in our lives.
We who know them so well need not recount your good deeds. Suffice it to say that our gratitude lies deep in our hearts and will remain there forever. In these times of style and unrest the work could wish for no more than its people follow the path of righteous living as exemplified by you.
It is our fondest hope that you continue to enjoy good health and contentment for a long time to come. May you always be proud of your community and its citizens. And lastly, may your kindly acts be ever blooming flowers through the passing of the years!
God bless you, Mr. Hershey!
Your Employees and Friends
Mr. Hershey also received various messages from students and alumni of Hershey Industrial School who expressed their gratitude for the school they called home. On Sept. 11, 1938, S. Frederick Laskey ’25 wrote Mr. Hershey a heartfelt letter for his birthday. He wrote:
“Since it is your birthday and birthdays mean presents, I can’t for the life of me think what to get you. Not even if I were in the best financial position possible; I still would be at a loss as to what it should be … After careful consideration, I find one thing I can give. One thing money can not buy, and that is my sincere appreciation and thanks for the foundation you gave me to start life with. That is my present to you on your 81st birthday.”
In 1939, Milton Hershey again celebrated his birthday at the Hershey Arena when he turned 82 years old. This time, he invited all of Hershey’s homeowners to a dinner. The dinner was a farm-to-table celebration with everything but the olives, coffee, salt, and pepper coming from foods grown or raised on Hershey farms.
1939 was the last time Mr. Hershey’s birthday was celebrated as a community event. For the rest of his life, his birthdays were celebrated with private, intimate dinners. Guests were most often his senior executives and their wives.
In honor of his 88th birthday, Milton Hershey invited his senior staff to a small gathering held in The Homestead—his childhood home. Surrounding him were men he had handpicked to lead the various Hershey organizations. Mr. Hershey also arranged to have his baby cradle placed in the room as a memento of his childhood.
This was the last birthday Mr. Hershey celebrated. Sadly, he died a month later on Oct. 13, 1945 in Hershey Hospital.
This year, Mr. Hershey would have celebrated his 160th birthday! Just as Laskey expressed his appreciation in 1938 for the school that changed his life, current Milton Hershey School students and staff continue to celebrate his legacy with a community-wide celebration.