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H.B Reese- The Man Behind the Reese Cup

We’ve all heard the story about the infamous peanut butter and chocolate collision that resulted in the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup known and loved since the 1920s.  Is this the true origin of Hershey favorite, or is there more to it than that?  Comedian Mitch Hedberg once raised an excellent, little considered question in one of his typicaly short, non-sequitur stand up jokes.  “I get the Reese's candy bar,” he tells the audience.   “You look at that, there's an apostrophe-s there. That means the candy bar is his. I didn't know that. Next time you're eating a Reese's candy bar, and a guy named Reese comes by and says, "Gimme that", you better hand it over.”  Mitch raises an interesting point about ownership- not of each delicious Reese’s cup, of course, but about ownership of that initial peanut butter cup production.  So who is Reese, the man responsible for this peanut butter and chocolate delight, and how did we come to eat his candy?
The answer to this is easy enough to find, though the “how” and “why” of the candy is probably the last thing on the mind of the consumer when he or she bites in; as the Hershey Company Website describes, "LIFE'S GOOD BETWEEN REESE'S PEANUT BUTTER CUPS,” and the consumer is generally not preoccupied with such concerns.  The Website provides a history of Reese’s Peanut Butter Candy, which is produced in as many as 11 different flavors and variety’s, including “Crispy Crunchy,” “Peanut Butter & White Chocolate,”  seasonal Christmas Tree and Pumpkin shapes, and, of course, the beloved original “Peanut Butter & Milk Chocolate” cup.  Hersheys.com tells us that the H.B. Reese Candy Company began producing “specially processed” peanut butter and Milk Chocolate in the 1920s.  Back then, the candies were known only as peanut butter cups.  Harry Burnett Reese, whose name is now an important part of the peanut butter cup, was born in 1879 on a farm in Pennsylvania.  Hershey’s.com describes that Reese didn’t enjoy farming and worked at several different jobs before he eventually moved to Hershey, Pennsylvania in 1917 to begin his candy career.  It was there that Reese was actually employed as a dairy worker for Milton S. Hershey, the founder of Hershey Foods Corporation, who inspired Reese to quit his dairy job and make his living in candy.
 
It wasn’t   all smooth sailing for Harry Reese at first.  He left Hershey, PA and experimented with a few types of candy before he eventually returned and focused on his peanut butter cups.  During the 20s, Reese sold packaged peanut butter cups for use in candy assortments, and a decade later sold them for one cent each to the assortment line.  During World War II, economic conditions pressured Reese to discontinue his other candy lines.  He focused solely on the cups, which Hershey.com quotes were “a product that both the young and old alike can eat and enjoy.”

Throughout the next few decades, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups grew in popularity and recognition across the country, and Reese needed a bigger production facility.  He acquired one along “Chocolate Avenue” in 1957.  Eventually, in 1963, the H.B. Reese Candy Company, Inc., sold for $23.5 million to the Hershey Chocolate Company, which continues to produce delicious new varieties of Peanut Butter Cups.
 
Hopefully, with the knowledge of Reese’s Cup history, consumers “young and old alike”  will continue to enjoy peanut butter cups for their smooth delicious flavor, but also for the determination of Reese, the man behind the cup, to follow his chocolate passion to success.
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