American Essence is a magazine for anyone who loves America.


It celebrates America's contribution to humanity.

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What people are saying

What drew me to want to subscribe is the focus on things and people in America. Stories of traditional American values and creativity regardless of race, color or creed.
- Deborah Smith
With all the negative media coverage of America, and the twisted, commercialized version of America and Americans that are pushed on our American society as truth, it is refreshing to find a magazine like American Essence. This magazine tells real stories of real Americans, which reflect what is good and true about America.
- Jeff K
I really enjoy the stories of small businesses I would have otherwise never known about. It really captures the true spirit of Americans. I also enjoy learning about the history of America through your magazine.
- Adam Dickerson
Never in my lifetime has there been a greater need to recognize and share what is good, positive, hopeful, commendable, generous, ingenious, amazing, wonderful... the ESSENCE... about America. Perfect name for this outstanding publication.
- K. B.
Educational, in-depth, first class articles. Heartwarming American story sharing by informed authors. Fantastic art and photography. Unique and awesome publication.
- S. Lyn Samuelson
My children are bombarded with media messaging that intentionally tries to tear down this country and divide its people. But they will come to know better. American Essence is a beacon of hope in an ocean of chaos.
- James Michaletz
Your magazine gives me chills when I read it, the kind I feel when I salute our flag. It inspires unity, with good old fashioned common sense stories about people keeping their faith in liberty.
- Kellee Scammell
Wanted to support your publication as it represents what is missing in the media; integrity, moral standards, and positivity. A wonderful "read" that will be shared historically in the future with family and friends. Image great grandchildren reading and learning from American Essence in years to come.
- Jane Bush
We need publications that highlight the diversity and creativity that life in America affords. I thought the first edition of American Essence was beautifully written and presented. I plan to buy several gift subscriptions for family members.
- Kari Wszolek
American Essence magazine is beautifully produced. The articles are interesting, well written and inspiring. I read the magazine from cover to cover. I also enjoy the photography and artwork.
- Elaine Young
I am 75 years old and have children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. I want them to know the true America I grew up in. I find that the schools today are not teaching the true story of America and what a wonderful country we are. American Essence may some day be one of the few sources for our future Americans to read and learn about the true America.
- Lillian Davis
The magazine is a keepsake. The photography is wonderful and the articles interesting. Thank you for producing something hopeful, intelligent, and informative.
- Patricia Snyder

FOCUS

From History to Future

American Essence brings you the best of America, past and present, to help you create a better future for yourself and the country.

Timeless Values

American Essence highlights the morals and traditional values that guided the nation's Founding Fathers. It shares stories embodying the ideals and virtues that form this land of liberty.
Timeless

Perseverance

American Essence seeks to uplift the mind and heart by telling the story of America, with all its perilous moments, providential triumphs, and ordinary individuals pushing for the changes that have shaped the nation.
Man

What people are saying

What drew me to want to subscribe is the focus on things and people in America. Stories of traditional American values and creativity regardless of race, color or creed.
- Deborah Smith
With all the negative media coverage of America, and the twisted, commercialized version of America and Americans that are pushed on our American society as truth, it is refreshing to find a magazine like American Essence. This magazine tells real stories of real Americans, which reflect what is good and true about America.
- Jeff K
I really enjoy the stories of small businesses I would have otherwise never known about. It really captures the true spirit of Americans. I also enjoy learning about the history of America through your magazine.
- Adam Dickerson
Never in my lifetime has there been a greater need to recognize and share what is good, positive, hopeful, commendable, generous, ingenious, amazing, wonderful... the ESSENCE... about America. Perfect name for this outstanding publication.
- K. B.
Educational, in-depth, first class articles. Heartwarming American story sharing by informed authors. Fantastic art and photography. Unique and awesome publication.
- S. Lyn Samuelson
My children are bombarded with media messaging that intentionally tries to tear down this country and divide its people. But they will come to know better. American Essence is a beacon of hope in an ocean of chaos.
- James Michaletz
Your magazine gives me chills when I read it, the kind I feel when I salute our flag. It inspires unity, with good old fashioned common sense stories about people keeping their faith in liberty.
- Kellee Scammell
Wanted to support your publication as it represents what is missing in the media; integrity, moral standards, and positivity. A wonderful "read" that will be shared historically in the future with family and friends. Image great grandchildren reading and learning from American Essence in years to come.
- Jane Bush
We need publications that highlight the diversity and creativity that life in America affords. I thought the first edition of American Essence was beautifully written and presented. I plan to buy several gift subscriptions for family members.
- Kari Wszolek
American Essence magazine is beautifully produced. The articles are interesting, well written and inspiring. I read the magazine from cover to cover. I also enjoy the photography and artwork.
- Elaine Young
I am 75 years old and have children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. I want them to know the true America I grew up in. I find that the schools today are not teaching the true story of America and what a wonderful country we are. American Essence may some day be one of the few sources for our future Americans to read and learn about the true America.
- Lillian Davis
The magazine is a keepsake. The photography is wonderful and the articles interesting. Thank you for producing something hopeful, intelligent, and informative.
- Patricia Snyder

FOCUS

From History to Future

Timeless Values

Perseverance

American Essence brings you the best of America, past and present, to help you create a better future for yourself and the country.
American Essence highlights the morals and traditional values that guided the nation's Founding Fathers. It shares stories embodying the ideals and virtues that form this land of liberty.
American Essence seeks to uplift the mind and heart by telling the story of America, with all its perilous moments, providential triumphs, and ordinary individuals pushing for the changes that have shaped the nation.
Timeless
Man
Native American
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Honoring Tradition through the Art of Native American Kayak-Making

Honoring Tradition through the Art of Native American Kayak-Making

Written by Savannah Howe
Indigenous craftsman Kiliii Yuyan reveals what this humble boat can teach us about traditions and knowing our history

“If you hunt something, how can you love it? How can you both love an animal and hunt it?”

These words of National Geographic photographer and indigenous kayak craftsman Kiliii Yuyan reverberated in my mind as I floated down the Cedar River in Iowa on my last kayak trip of the year. It was early, just after 7 a.m., and dense mist hovered above the water, reluctant to let dawn give in to day. By this morning in late October, the wind that rattled near-naked tree limbs was brisk. Just a few months ago, I made this same exact float with thighs burning under the sun, but now, at the threshold of winter, I huddled in my trusty North Face fleece and let the steam wafting from my open coffee thermos warm my poor, red nose.

Gray, wintry waves lurched at the hull of my kayak. She's a humble vessel, 10 feet of yellow polyethylene purchased at a big-box outdoors store, and was currently the only thing separating me from a 40-something-degree polar plunge. While this was not something I'd ever been particularly aware of in any of my countless prior kayak trips, Yuyan made me painfully conscious of a kayaker's vulnerable position; with me being mostly submerged in the vessel and the vessel being mostly submerged in the water, who's to say where I, the boat, and the river all began and ended?

From somewhere beyond the bank, a mourning dove cooed. And in a shallow portion a few dozen yards ahead, a deer crashed through the water, hustling to the other side. At the sight of the doe, I was reminded, again, of Yuyan's questions to me a few days prior.

Can you love something that you hunt, that you kill? Can you respect it? Do you think the animal giving its life to you respects you?

Small, but Mighty

Yuyan, a resident of Seattle, is Chinese-American and Nanai-American. Nanai is an indigenous people native to Siberia. His parents were immigrants to the United States fleeing the communist revolution in China. With a mother that was fearful of the consequences of being different, Yuyan spent his childhood years ignorant of his indigenous heritage, only catching glimpses of his background when Grandma would come to visit and share hushed stories of the culture that pulsed through his veins. After discovering his heritage, Yuyan dove into many traditional practices, such as fishing, hunting, buckskin tanning, basket weaving, and clay pottery. One in particular has flourished into a global business, preserving an indigenous tradition that has changed the course of marine navigation: the art of building kayaks. Kayaks are a cornerstone in indigenous peoples' connections with each other, the earth, and the animals that they hunt on it. “A lot of different northern cultures have powerful ties and spiritual relationships with kayaks,” Yuyan told me.

Starkly different from my mass-produced plastic vessel, Yuyan's kayaks are made in the way that ancient Arctic and Subarctic natives (who had migrated from Asia and Siberia to what is now upper Alaska and Canada) did to navigate the dangerously icy waters they hunted in. He follows 4,000-year-old methods: Cold-weather tribes used birch branches—lashed together with hand-tied knots—and seal skins to assemble their kayaks, creating a vessel capable of going where others could not.

This article was originally published in volume 2, issue 2 of American Essence.

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The Oldest Revolutionary War Hero

The Oldest Revolutionary War Hero

Written by Andrew Benson Brown
Samuel Whittemore was well beyond retirement age when he took on multiple retreating British grenadiers at Concord—and he lived almost 2 vigorous decades more

"Old Sam" Whittemore was about 80 when he encountered a British army of about 1,700. If a standard retirement age or the right to claim disability had existed in colonial America, Samuel Whittemore would probably not have felt these things were right for him. He was just one of the many minutemen who dropped his plow to take up his musket after the first shots at Lexington and Concord were fired, but he differed from most of his fellow embattled farmers in at least one important respect: he was not young. Nor was he middle-aged. Or even close to the standard retirement age. He was, in fact, the oldest combatant to serve in any American war. And despite sustaining terrible wounds from British soldiers that day, he survived to live for another 18 years. Among the many firsthand accounts that have come down to us from April 19, 1775, Samuel Whittemore's story stands out as a testament to resilience, longevity, and sheer toughness.

As straggling, exhausted British soldiers were retreating from Concord on their way back to Boston, they entered the town of Menotomy, where an elderly man was working in his fields. Although approximately 80 years of age and crippled, Samuel Whittemore did not hesitate. He exhorted his fellow townsmen to stand up to the British, ending his speech with the words, “If I can only be the instrument of killing one of my country's foes, I shall die in peace.” Gathering a musket, sword, and brace of pistols, he then entered the fray as his wife fled to seek refuge elsewhere. He crouched behind a stone wall and began shooting at the passing British with his musket. Taking notice of this apparent fly, a party of grenadiers was sent to swat him. As they closed in, Sam reloaded, aimed his musket, and killed one. He drew his pistols, shooting a second soldier, then a third. When he attacked with his sword, another grenadier shot him in the face, blowing off part of his cheekbone. More regulars charged forward, impaling him with their bayonets multiple times. Deeming this insufficient to do him in, they proceeded to brutally beat him with their musket butts. At that point, the redcoats seem to have considered him reasonably dead and moved on.

Hours later, however, when local residents found Whittemore's mangled body, he was not only still alive but (according to some accounts) still trying to load his musket. They carried him to a surgeon, who initially hesitated to treat his wounds—he was too old, he had simply sustained too many injuries. But at the behest of neighbors, Sam was patched up and carried home. Not only did he defy expectations and pull through, but within a year of recovering he enlisted for active duty in the continental army and served for short periods during the war. The muster rolls of several regiments bear his name, and at one point he held the rank of lieutenant. He witnessed his country emancipate itself from British rule, ratify its own constitution, and elect George Washington to a second term as president before finally expiring at the age of nearly 100.

Over the centuries, Samuel Whittemore, like many admired historical figures, has been subject to some mythologizing. As his fame has grown, his badges of courage have multiplied. His obituary in the Columbian Centinel from February 6, 1793, recounting his story, places the amount of stab wounds he received at “6 or 8.” By 1995, when Pulitzer Prize-winning historian David Hackett Fischer gives his version of Whittemore's story in “Paul Revere's Ride,” this time around, the old man is carried to the doctor, “bleeding from at least fourteen wounds.” The 19th-century accounts that Fischer drew on for this fact had inflated Whittemore's injuries to double the number originally recorded.

Whittemore's true age has also been a subject of debate. His obituary, the plaque on a monument to him, and later genealogical accounts written by descendants, all give different ages for him. Modern historians agree with the descendants' accounts that have him at 78 during the Concord battle and 96 at death. A Lifetime of Service

Although Samuel Whittemore is most famous for actions undertaken in extreme old age, his response at Menotomy was only the culmination of a long life devoted to public duty. He was born sometime around 1696 in Charlestown, Massachusetts. Little is known of his early life, but by the 1740s he was serving as a captain of dragoons and fought in King George's War. His name is listed among soldiers of the Third Massachusetts Regiment during the Siege of Fort Louisburg in 1745, when he was nearly 50 years old. Although his first recorded conflict occurred long after the time when most soldiers hang up their uniforms today, Whittemore was present when the fort fell and went home with an ornamental French sword he had taken from an enemy.

Over a decade later, now in his mid-60s, Whittemore returned to fight in the French and Indian War, besieging and taking Fort Louisburg for a second time. Four years after this—now in his late 60s—he served in Pontiac's War, a vicious three-year conflict against confederated tribes in the Great Lakes region. It was here that he acquired his pair of pistols, apparently taken from the body of a dead native.

After serving in this third war, Sam “retired” from military life. By this time he had already married twice and raised 10 children, and at 70 years of age he began taking a leading role in local politics. For several years following the Stamp Act's repeal in 1766, he was elected to different committees to advocate on behalf of his fellow citizens—first for Menotomy, then for Cambridge—regarding Massachusetts' grievances against acts of Parliament. His signature survives on a letter written by the Cambridge Committee of Correspondence, showing that he took part in protesting the Tea Act not long before the Boston Tea Party.

This article was originally published in volume 2, issue 3 of American Essence.

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Revolutionary War
3rd
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Landscapes of Light

Landscapes of Light

The artwork of Frederic Edwin Church
Written by Bob Kirchman
The story is told of a moment in the North Carolina mansion of Richard Joshua Reynolds, American businessman and founder of the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company. One of the family's small children was staring intently at an extremely large canvas in the family parlor. His mother asked him what he was admiring in the painting. He responded: “I'm looking at the church.” Indeed, he was staring at “The Andes of Ecuador,” a painting by the great artist Frederic Edwin Church. Thinking the child had become aware of the great artist at such a tender age, she joined him in examining the artwork—only to discover the red-tile-roofed chapel that was a tiny detail in the vast painting. That was the “church” the child was drawn to. Frederic Church's epic paintings ended up in the grand homes of wealthy patrons, who probably missed much of the detail in the paintings they had purchased. The sheer volume of subtly rendered detail probably required “a little child [to] lead them” (Isaiah 11:6). Truthfully, Church was a very spiritual person, and his work reflected a sense of the unseen hand behind the scenery he so beautifully rendered.

Frederic Church learned much from Prussian naturalist Alexander von Humboldt, who had written about South America and encouraged painters to go and capture the beauty of the New World. Humboldt was one who valued field sketches in his own work, and Church took that to heart. In his own travels, he would make many small “preparatory works.” He never did his large canvases plein air (on-site in the open air) but rather constructed and completed the works from his copious field studies. Working slowly, he would usually complete one of his large canvases in the course of a year. His smooth, luminescent skies are the result of his smooth, patient blending of layers of oil paint. He frequently painted the golden glow of morning or evening.

Church began painting in a time when most great thinkers still beheld the hand of God in Creation. As his contemporaries viewed “The Andes of Ecuador,” they felt as though they were looking at the fresh work of the Divine Hand. David C. Huntington, American art historian, commented on the Andean landscape:

Like Adam at the dawn of human consciousness the beholder awakens to the beauty of the earth which has been so long preparing for him. Yet this first awakening is, in effect, the type for a reawakening into a higher consciousness, which is the consciousness of a soul reborn in Christ, as with fresh eyes he “sees all things new”. The old dispensation is manifest in the guise of the church and wayside shrine, each marked by a cross. The new dispensation is manifest in the guise of a heavenly cross whose all-pervasive radiant light blesses and hallows all nature. As the crosses made by human hands adumbrate the cross made by divine hands, so has the sequel of ever higher orders of life through aeons adumbrated the mind-spirit which now, for the first time, contemplates Creation with “Intelligence”. As he “soars” suspended between earth and heaven in the presence of Andes of Ecuador and looks out upon the world's divinity, the spectator becomes a “demi-god”.

Frederic Edwin Church was born on May 4, 1826, in Hartford, Connecticut. His family was wealthy and provided ample opportunity for him to pursue education. It was at the Hartford Grammar School that his artistic talent was noticed; he was asked to teach a drawing class at the age of 15. The next year, Church studied with two local painters, Benjamin Coe and Alexander Emmons. Church's father Joseph was friends with an art patron named Daniel Wadsworth. When Frederic expressed his desire to pursue a career in painting, Wadsworth wrote a letter of introduction for him to the great Hudson River School painter Thomas Cole. At the age of 18, Church became Cole's pupil, living on Cole's property in Catskill, New York.

Cole taught the young man for two years, infusing in him a great wealth of various techniques and color palettes. He underscored this training with a vigorous instruction in the art of sketching. Most importantly, he allowed the young artist to absorb his belief in the great power and beauty of the natural world. Church's early work was quite similar to Cole's, and he even titled an 1844 work “Ox-Bow (after Thomas Cole).” It was Church's interpretation of a scene Cole had also painted. As the Hudson River School developed, Church's own style emerged. Luminism, a style of painting that emphasized light in the portrayal of scenery, led Church to paint with smooth, barely noticeable brush strokes. He began to paint very large canvases (6 to 8 feet wide) in that smooth, sublime style.

Initially, Frederic Church painted the Hudson and surrounding mountains, as well as other New England scenes. British art critic John Ruskin said of these works, often painted in twilight or dawn's golden glow, that they implied “[God's] own immediate presence as visiting, judging, and blessing us.” Ruskin believed landscapes to be the ideal manner of expressing spiritual intent. Church certainly developed this metaphor, but unlike earlier 19th-century painters, he did not create allegorical works as such. He preferred to develop his painting with a subtle human presence, often barely visible, which invited the viewers to step into the vast paintings and make their own discoveries. Church was inducted into the National Academy of Design in 1848 as its youngest associate. After settling in New York, he took his first pupil, William Stillman. Church would leave his studio in spring and travel all summer, often by foot. Every winter, he would return back to the studio to paint and sell his work.

Unlike many young artists, Church had the means to travel. The vast scenery of the West called to him, as well as the “wild” landscapes of places like Katahdin in Maine. He would often travel to remote locations with a group of his male friends, making numerous studies and sketches while camped out on location. These trips would typically last for months. From his many studies, he would complete his large canvases when he returned to his studio. It was not uncommon for him to spend a year completing one of his large works. He was a keen observer. When he painted Virginia's Natural Bridge, he captured the fine elements of the rock arch so that all who are familiar with it today recognize minute details of the great natural wonder.

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This article was originally published in volume 2, issue 3 of American Essence.
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Owl Feather Farm Marionberry Pie

Owl Feather Farm Marionberry Pie

Written by Eric Lucas
Marionberries are common in July and August at temperate-climate farmers markets, and they can be found frozen at many mainstream grocery stores, including Whole Foods, Wild Oats—even Albertson's and Safeway. You can also order online at, among other vendors, Washington's Remlinger Farms and Oregon's Stahlbush Island Farms.

Is frozen as good as fresh? Well, never. But marionberries come as close to it as any foodstuff. Add a little extra thickening to the pie, and the difference between a fresh or frozen berry pie is negligible. And frozen berries, once thawed, are better for making juice to use in ice cream and sorbet, if you find a pie unworthy.

This is the pie we serve at my small farm on San Juan Island in Washington. My mother-in-law adapted a 1970 Betty Crocker pie crust recipe, and I then amended it for a pie fit for marionberries.

  • 2 ⅔ cups unbleached flour
  • ¾ cup vegetable oil, sunflower oil, or olive oil
  • ⅛ cup chilled water
  • 4 pints marionberries
  • ½–⅔ cup raw or turbinado sugar (not white)
  • ⅛ or ¼ cup flour or cornstarch (for thickening)


In a large mixing bowl, add vegetable oil to flour, stirring with a whisk or fork until you have pea-sized pieces. Slowly add chilled water until the dough coalesces; divide and shape by hand into two equal halves. Roll out each half on wax paper. Then, carefully lay one dough round into a 10-inch pie dish, or deep 9-inch dish.

Meanwhile, mix marionberries with sugar and thickener (if frozen, thaw thoroughly first and use more thickener) and pour into the pie dish. Do not over-sweeten, or you'll overwhelm the marionberry taste. Lay the other dough round over it, press two edges together, and use a fork to poke holes on top for the juices to drain if necessary (or form a lattice crust, if desired).

Place in a 425-degree oven and bake for 20 to 25 minutes; turn heat down to 350 degrees, and bake for another 40 to 50 minutes. The pie is done when juices bubble up through fork holes in the crust. Cool for 2 to 3 hours and serve.

This article was originally published in volume 2, issue 4 of American Essence.
Marionberry Pie
Milton Hershey
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Milton Hershey's Philanthropy

Milton Hershey's Philanthropy

Written by Krista Thomas
One could say that philanthropy is good for the nation and good for the soul.

In fact, philanthropy is a key component permeating the backbone of America's success: American communities have benefited from private initiatives long after the benefactors have passed on.

Such is the case with one of America's most beloved innovators: Milton S. Hershey. The wealthy industrialist invented legendary chocolates known the world over. However, Hershey's legacy of philanthropy started with a belief in moral responsibility to others in need. “What good is money unless you use it for the benefit of the community and of humanity in general?” he was quoted as saying.

Born in Pennsylvania in 1857, Hershey had experienced hunger and poverty throughout his youth. Although loved, Hershey was accustomed to a routinely absent father. With limited choices, he left school at 14 and began a series of apprenticeships; he found success in the candy making industry 12 years later with his own business, Lancaster Caramel Company. It was his thriftiness, ingenuity, and hard work that placed Hershey in a position to give back. After selling his caramel business for $1 million in 1900, he made plans to build the Hershey Chocolate Company near where he grew up in Derry Church, Pennsylvania. There, he could mass-produce affordable, yet delicious, milk chocolate candies; create employment opportunities for others; and utilize the rich, creamy products from the dairy farming community.

Without heirs, Hershey and his wife Catherine dedicated their lives to philanthropic opportunities through the creation of the Hershey Theatre, the Hershey Amusement Park, and the Hershey Industrial School. The latter started out as an orphanage on the old homestead in the early 1900s. Today, Hershey's legacy lives on as thousands of students have benefited from attending the well-endowed Milton Hershey School (as it is now known), a cost-free, private school for boys and girls from low-income families. As a home and school, MHS covers 100 percent of the cost of medical, dental, and psychological care, housing, clothing, food, extracurricular activities, and more for its students, allowing them to focus on their personal growth. This year's enrollment consists of 2,000 students.

Josh Kelly, like so many students before him, comes from an adverse background. Students who experience neglect, poverty, or negative environments apply for free admission and find themselves on a new path of opportunity. Kelly, a bright senior who hails from Philadelphia, plays ice hockey, works as a lifeguard at the school's pool, and plans to further his education in the field of business or finance after graduation.

“When I was younger, my dad was never around. I was getting into trouble because I didn't know how to express my emotions of anger very well,” said Kelly of his time as a troubled 1st grader. He and his older sister arrived at Milton Hershey School to get away from home and school dilemmas. Upon arrival at the Milton Hershey School, Kelly credits his elementary school houseparents for their tremendous influence on his emotional growth and well-being. “They always push you to do better because they want you to succeed,” he added. “I didn't have parent figures, so to speak, so they really set me up for a better future.”

A better future, asserts School Historian Susan Alger, is why Hershey's visionary ideals led him and Catherine to contribute to and support an institution like no other—a private establishment that not only educates but offers support and balance in family life.

“Students can relate to Milton Hershey's story, who experienced a meager existence in a dysfunctional family. He wanted students to be useful citizens with stability,” Alger explained. “He just always said he wanted to get away from the idea of institutions and give them a happy life.”

In the beginning, Hershey's Industrial School was an all-male enterprise. Aside from studies, everyone helped with daily chores, from gardening to milking cows. And the school grew in numbers. Being completely self-contained with truck patch farming, the students and employees grew everything they needed.

After Catherine Hershey passed away in 1915, Milton Hershey endeavored to be more involved in all aspects of the school's success, providing opportunities in trades for students and financially ensuring needs were met.

According to Alger, his direct involvement of care and concern for the school was essentially fatherly. Being a bit sentimental and shy, Hershey would take boys for rides in his car and visit their student homes. Hershey was quoted as saying, “If we had helped a hundred children it would have all been worthwhile.”

Even during World Wars I and II, the school continued its deliberate mission to educate youth from troubled homes. Originally, the Deed of Trust allowed boys ages 4 through 8 to attend if the father was deceased; however, about the time of the Great Depression, the age restriction expanded to ages 4 to 14 with either mother or father deceased. Even when enrollment was down during World War II, it was due to those who chose to serve. “Close to 1,000 served, and we annually honor our Gold Star alumni who gave their life to service,” Alger stated.

While other philanthropists, in their generosity, give away partial or complete estates after their passing, Hershey was different. “He gave the bulk of his entire wealth while still alive,” Alger said. With the success of the Hershey Chocolate Company, Hershey quietly and humbly transferred the entirety of his company's shares in 1918 to the school. But this fact was not known until a few years later.

With heart and will bent toward benevolence, Hershey was motivated by his own upbringing but also motivated through innovation.

“I wanted to get away from the idea of institutions and charity and compulsion, and to give as many boys as possible real homes, real comforts, education, and training, so they would be useful and happy citizens,” he said of his school. “Most of them [students] have better chances for character building and education than ever before. Perhaps they don't have the chance to make as much money as some individuals have made, but they will lead to happier lives.”

Historical records and oral histories indicate that Milton Hershey was a fair man. “He always gave the benefit of the doubt. As a problem solver, he wanted things to be right and ethical. He wanted people to live honestly.”

And unlike his contemporaries, she added, Hershey was grounded. As an example, in comparison to other wealthy philanthropists like the Fords, Wrigleys, and Vanderbilts, Hershey built a modest yet graceful home, High Point Mansion.

And though Hershey passed away in 1945, his innovative school continued to cultivate an education that helped hundreds of students. In 1977, the founder's original dreams expanded, admitting girls from disadvantaged homes or tragic backgrounds.

“My dad tragically died when I was 4 years old,” said Christine Cook, a recently retired kindergarten teacher of 35 years at the Milton Hershey School.

Cook remarked on her own journey as the first female to graduate.

“I arrived in 10th grade as a sophomore from Philadelphia. We were taught intangibles—to work hard and to be kind. And we were taught tangibles like milking cows at 5:30 in the morning on the coldest of winter days or in the middle of the summer with temperatures soaring above 100 degrees. This is good, character-building stuff.”

Even if students didn't like the chores, it was part of the overall experience. But Cook admits she was fortunate. Other students came from families with tragic, even abusive, backgrounds. Leaving family behind and starting fresh can be extremely challenging for the students and their families.

“I remember it being difficult for my mother. It was a tough decision, but a great one. So many parent supports exist today that help families experiencing feelings of guilt, […] giving up their children even though the school provides them with better opportunities,” Cook continued.

She would know. Before Cook graduated as the first alumna in 1981, she had played field hockey, basketball, and softball. She was a member of the school's band, earned a spot in the National Honor Society, and held positions in student leadership. She graduated from college and returned to the school to teach the hallmark values, ideals, and integrity so instilled from her own experiences at the school. Cook believes that if Milton Hershey were alive today, he would be impressed by the vast majority of alumni who have successfully graduated and are employed in solid leadership positions. The school's alumni have surpassed 11,000.

Cook was named the Alumna of the Year in May 2021, and she attests to the amazing honor of being a student. Her experiences led her to contribute in many ways to countless others who came through her classroom. In fact, she taught just under 500 students over her 35-year tenure.

“Hershey's idea of success was making your mark in society in a positive way. A successful person is one who helps others. Hershey was big on helping the other guy, making the world a better place,” Cook added.

When her students graduate, she makes a point to stay in touch with those who are considered “Lifers”—having attended from kindergarten through their senior year. For the seniors, she invites them over to her house, cooks a homemade meal, and breaks out photos to share memories. When a Lifer graduates, she makes sure her congratulatory card includes a copy of his or her kindergarten report card.

“As you graduate, you understand the needs of the kids; it makes you work harder. I would tell my kindergartners that they attend the best school in the whole wide world.”

These kids are the lucky ones because no other school subscribes to what Milton Hershey stood for, she added. He left a mark in the world and lived up to his words.

The philanthropic mission of Milton Hershey has been good for the students and employees. As School Historian Alger put it, “There's one quote of Milton Hershey that sums up what he wanted, and it's what we still do today: ‘One is only happy in proportion as he makes others feel happy and only useful as he contributes his influences for the finer callings in life.'”

It's an adage that Kelly appreciates. Every year, he and the other students become philanthropists of sorts. With community service days, they learn to give back, too. He appreciates the opportunities awaiting him after graduation, thankful for the founder he never met who helped turn his life around.

If Milton Hershey's philanthropic success continues from within the hallways of his hometown private initiative, it will be good for America, for his legacy of education lives on with students long after they graduate. One could say his gratefulness and generosity echo beyond the grave: “I hope to see the school carry on to new heights. After a man dies, he cannot spend his money, and it has been a pleasure for me to spend mine as I have done.”

This article was originally published in volume 1, issue 7 of American Essence.
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