This paperboard Hershey’s Kisses shipping pail from around 1920 can hold approximately 25 pounds and was originally used to ship and distribute the candy. The label features an image of the factory that company founder Milton Hershey built in Derry Township, along with text stating, “The House of Hershey, Where Quality is Paramount”. A stamp on the bottom indicates that the pail was manufactured by the John Strange Pail Co., founded by businessman and politician John Strange in Wisconsin in 1881. Other Hershey’s items kept in the collection of the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission include a breakfast cocoa box and a box for Hershey’s Milk Chocolate with Almonds.
An apprenticeship with a Lancaster confectionery cultivated Milton Hershey’s interest in candy making. He launched his first company while still a teenager in 1876. After several failed attempts, Hershey tried caramel making and it stuck. His Lancaster Caramel Co. soon employed 1,400 people and distributed products across the United States. In 1893, Hershey attended the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago where he would purchase German chocolate making machinery and have it shipped to Lancaster. Soon, the Hershey Chocolate Co. was born and the Hershey’s bar quickly followed. Chocolate, which had been a luxury, was now affordable for the masses. Hershey sold his Lancaster Caramel Co. to focus solely on the growing chocolate business. He selected Derry Township in which to build a new factory. The location was easily reached by railroad from port cities that provided cocoa beans and sugar. In addition, farms that surrounded the factory provided milk and creams and there were residents available for hire. By 1905, the new factory was producing chocolate bars.
Looking to expand its product line, Hershey’s introduced Kisses in 1907. Initially, the cone shaped chocolates were wrapped in foil by hand, but by 1921 automation had taken over and the candies were machine wrapped. This same technology also added the “Kisses” plume that informs customers they are eating a genuine Hershey’s product. The company trademarked the popular plume in 1924. Due to foil rationing during World War II, the production of Kisses briefly came to a halt. The mixing machines were used instead to make chocolate paste for military ration bars. Roughly 20 years later, in the 1960s, the company introduced colored foil wrappers to represent different seasons and holidays.
Selected by CAP Curator Katelyn Adam as this week’s Pennsylvania Treasure, this Hershey’s Kisses pail is currently being repaired by a paper conservator and will be featured in the upcoming Pennsylvania Icons exhibit.
About Pennsylvania Icons:
Featuring a diverse array of artifacts from the collections of the State Museum of Pennsylvania and other Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission historic sites and museums, Pennsylvania Icons tells the story of our commonwealth, its people and the role they played in shaping the nation. The exhibit features historic artifacts ranging from a 1654 map of the Philadelphia region to pieces of the Walnut Street bridge in Harrisburg. Pennsylvania Icons opens to the public on Sunday, November 8, 2015.
About Pennsylvania Treasures:
In early 2012, The Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission launched the Collections Advancement Project (CAP), a program to inventory and catalog our vast and significant holdings of art and artifacts. These efforts are resulting in better stewardship of our collections which represent Pennsylvania arts, culture, history, sciences, business and agriculture. As a component of the project, CAP curators have researched rarely exhibited artifacts and works of art. We are sharing these Pennsylvania Treasures with the public through weekly updates.