In Chocolate We Trust
The Hershey Company Town UnwrappedUniversity of Pennsylvania Press Contemporary Ethnography
In Chocolate We Trust takes readers inside modern-day Hershey, Pennsylvania, headquarters of the iconic Hershey brand. A destination for chocolate enthusiasts since the early 1900s, Hershey has transformed from a model industrial town into a multifaceted suburbia powered by philanthropy. At its heart lies the Milton Hershey School Trust, a charitable trust with a mandate to serve "social orphans" and a $12 billion endowment amassed from Hershey Company profits. The trust is a longstanding source of pride for people who call Hershey home and revere its benevolent capitalist founder—but in recent years it has become a subject of controversy and intrigue.
Using interviews, participant observation, and archival research, anthropologist Peter Kurie returns to his hometown to examine the legacy of the Hershey Trust among local residents, company employees, and alumni of the K-12 Milton Hershey School. He arrives just as a scandal erupts that raises questions about the outsized power of the private trust over public life. Kurie draws on diverse voices across the community to show how philanthropy stirs passions and interests well beyond intended beneficiaries. In Chocolate We Trust reveals the cultural significance of Hershey as a forerunner to socially conscious corporations and the cult of the entrepreneur-philanthropist. The Hershey story encapsulates the dreams and wishes of today's consumer-citizens: the dream of becoming personally successful, and the wish that the most affluent among us will serve the common good.
Chapter 1. The Scandal
Chapter 2. The Man and the Town
Chapter 3. The Company
Chapter 4. The School
Chapter 5. The Gift
"[Kurie's] sensitivity to, and affection for, the various community subgroups often shine through. The result is a testament to a Hershey identity that is still strong. . . . [Kurie] demonstrates how a philanthropic institution can continue to reflect a founder's vision while shaping and being shaped by the community that grows up around it, one whose bonds can often be bittersweet."—The Wall Street Journal
"Native son and Princeton-trained anthropologist Peter Kurie examines the community, the company, and its history. . . . In Chocolate We Trust tells a great story, pertinent and fascinating."—The Washington Post
"The implications of Hershey's paternalism are explored in In Chocolate We Trust, by Peter Kurie, a Los Angeles-based anthropologist. He spent a year studying the tribal culture of Hershey as an example of the ultimate 'company town.' In some ways, the picture that emerges, of a company dedicated to selling happiness in a 210-calorie bar, reinforces the mythology of benevolent capitalism."—Financial Times
"No better or more poignant account has ever been written of how the legal instrument of the trust, meant to conserve private wealth, has so thoroughly constituted cultures of community in the United States-well into its postindustrial era, amid its rust belt zones."—George E. Marcus, coauthor of Lives in Trust
"Peter Kurie offers a richly detailed look at just how profoundly private wealth can shape public life in a single American city. In Chocolate We Trust tells a fascinating-and cautionary-tale about the power of philanthropy in modern times."—David Callahan, Founder & Editor, Inside Philanthropy
"Peter Kurie has written the definitive book on Hershey's legacy, an in-depth analysis of how Hershey's Trust has dominated and transformed Hershey, Pennsylvania over a hundred-year period. It is not just a thorough history covering the origins of the trust through to today's modern scandals but also a deep look into how trusts and empires can be built which last long after the founder's death. It's a lesson for us all."—Steven Davidoff Solomon, UC Berkeley School of Law
"A native son of Hershey, Pennsylvania, Peter Kurie has conducted an ethnography of this company town named after the chocolate magnate who founded it. His vivid and scrupulous chronicle of a charity torn by financial scandals proposes a fascinating descent into an obsolete epitome of paternalistic local capitalism which still survives in a time of aggressive global philanthropy."—Didier Fassin, Institute for Advanced Study