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How the Titanic Almost Sank Hershey

In 1894, Milton Snavely Hershey founded the Hershey Company. It wasn’t his first foray into the candy field, but you might be able to guess that it was his most successful.

In 1905, the company opened a factory that could mass produce chocolate, allowing Milton and his employees to market and supply their tasty wares nationally.

By 1907, the Hershey Company had so many employees that an entire town was needed to house them all. The result, Hershey Park, included a swimming pool, a ballroom and even rides. It quickly became a tourist destination.

By 1911, the Hersheys were rich enough that they decided to spend the winter in Nice. Figuring they might as well enjoy themselves when they headed back home to deal with business in April, Hershey put a $300 deposit down on a luxurious return trip: a stateroom on the maiden voyage of the Titanic. The first-class accommodations the Hersheys were planning on rivaled some of the finest hotel rooms in the world. The $3,000-$4,000 suite included a sitting room, a couple of bedrooms, dressing rooms, a private deck and a private bathroom. Some even had fireplaces.

Most stories say that Mrs. Hershey fell ill a few weeks before they were scheduled to come home, forcing them to make different travel arrangements. One version of the tale tells that a crisis at the plant caused Milton to head back home more than a week early. The company simply states that Hershey “[Found] it necessary to return earlier.”

No matter the reason, instead of stepping foot on the fated ship, the chocolate magnate and his wife sailed out on a German luxury liner called Amerika instead. They arrived home several days before the Titanic met its iceberg doom. In a strange coincidence, as the Amerika made its way back across the ocean, it sent a message to the Titanic, warning of large obstructions in the very area where the ship eventually went down.

Hershey wasn’t the only VIP who decided not to sail. J.P. Morgan also had a room booked and canceled at the last minute, as did Mr. and Mrs. Henry Clay Frick and George Vanderbilt II. Morgan had some last-minute business to attend to; Mrs. Frick injured her ankle; Vanderbilt supposedly refused to go based on a premonition his wife had. The premonition failed to save their luggage and their driver, Fred Wheeler, both of which perished in the crash.

Deposit photo by Chris Knight


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