Milton Hershey's Interesting Connection To The Titanic

Milton Hershey was a chocolatier and entrepreneur known for creating The Hershey Chocolate Company (via Biography). Born in Pennsylvania to a family of low means, his life is a classic rags to riches story. According to Britannica, Hershey became interested in candy making as a teen. He later opened up businesses in Philadelphia, New York, and Chicago. Each of these ventures failed. Hershey, however, was not deterred. He began making caramel candy and created the Lancaster Caramel Company. This brought Hershey much success, but the best was yet to come.

At the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition, Hershey encountered German chocolate-making machines (via Hershey). He immediately purchased the devices and got to work. Hershey promptly sold his caramel company and focused on his new business, The Hershey Chocolate Company. Ultimately, it became the first candy company to mass produce milk chocolate. Hershey, of course, became a very wealthy man. In 1898, he married Catherine Hershey (per the Milton Hershey school).

The Hershey's were known for their philanthropy. The couple could not have children and created a school for orphaned boys. Biography states that Hershey also founded a town in Pennsylvania that still bears his name today, building several structures, including a park that is now a theme park. Although the Hersheys were modest when it came to spending money on themselves, Lancaster History reports that they did love to travel.

Milton Hershey's change of plans saved him

According to Lancaster History, Catherine was a sickly woman and suffered from a number of ailments. Hershey and his wife spent much of their marriage traversing throughout the world. However, when Catherine's health worsened, they traveled frequently to Europe for treatments and for the warm weather. The Hershey Community Archives writes that the pair were in Nice, France, in the winter of 1911. They also spent the early months of 1912 there until Hershey decided he wanted to return to the States in April because of business matters. He then made a $300 check to The White Star Line, the company that owned the Titanic.

As first class accommodations cost $3,000 to $4,000, it's believed this $300 was just a deposit. PennLive reports that something occurred that made Hershey change his plans and leave Europe sooner than April 10, the day the Titanic was set to leave. Ultimately, Hershey left France on April 6 on a vessel called the Amerika and arrived safely in New York the next day. The Amerika later warned the Titanic of icebergs to no avail. The Titanic sank on April 15 after colliding with a massive iceberg. The refunded $300 check is now in the possession of the Hershey Community Archives.

Milton Hershey would have likely died on the Titanic

According to History, over 1,500 people died due to the sinking of the Titanic. If Hershey had been on the vessel as planned, Lancaster History points out that it's highly unlikely he would have survived. Titanic Facts reports that 123 first class passengers out of 324 died in the disaster. As a matter of fact, several notable wealthy individuals lost their lives on the night of April 15. According to Insider, this includes John Jacob Astor, Isidor and Ida Strauss, and more. Astor was known for building the famed Waldorf Astoria. As for the Strauss', they were the co-owners of Macy's.

The Hershey Community Archives writes that history would have been very different if Hershey had indeed perished on the Titanic. Although his prosperous business and the town of Hershey had already been established, the town experienced a building boom in the 1930s due to Hershey's efforts in creating jobs during the Great Depression. He subsequently built stadiums, a hotel, gardens, and more.

Per Biography, Milton Hershey died on October 13, 1945 at the age of 88. He left a large portion of his wealth in a school trust. Ultimately, Hershey deciding not to sail on the Titanic ensured his later philanthropic efforts. It's unlikely that any of these endeavors would have been accomplished had he died on April 15, 1912.

The others who didn't board the Titanic

Hershey wasn't the only one who avoided an icy fate. Smithsonian Magazine writes that several prominent folks decided against sailing on the Titanic. Some of these names include Guglielmo Marconi (seen above), J.P. Morgan, and Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt. According to Mental Floss, Marconi is credited for inventing the Radio. He was offered passage on the Titanic but declined and boarded the Lusitania, a ship that left three days earlier than the Titanic. It's believed he made this decision because he preferred the stenographer who was on board the Lusitania.

Despite this, Marconi was later praised for saving lives on the Titanic because of his innovations in telegraphy (via History Collection). As for J.P. Morgan, Ancestry reports that he had to stay in Europe for longer due to business reasons. He then canceled his booking with the Titanic. When asked about the sinking, he later told a reporter that "Monetary losses amount to nothing in life." Although Vanderbilt avoided death on the Titanic, he died in May 1915 on the Lusitania, when it was sunk by a German U-boat. Interestingly, Marconi had been on the ship only days before but once again, he avoided a watery death.