Today is I Love Reese’s Day, a celebration of the marriage of chocolate and peanut butter and the visionary who got them together in the first place.
In 1917, Harry Burnett Reese (May 24, 1879 – May 16, 1956) took a job on a dairy farm owned by the Hershey Company and later worked in the candy factory itself.
Inspired, he began to experiment with different candy formulas in his basement, with the intention of making extra money to care for his growing family.
He created the H. B. Reese Candy Company in 1923, selling a large variety of confections. He was so successful that three years later he was able to build a factory as well as a new home.
By 1928, Reese and his wife Blanche had sixteen children. That same year, H. B. Reese invented Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, sometimes called penny cups because they cost one cent apiece. They quickly became his most popular treat.
In response to sugar rationing during World War II, Reese chose to discontinue production of everything but the peanut butter cups, which required less sugar than his other candies. It was a savvy move that guaranteed his family’s prosperity.
Reese died in 1956 at the age of 76, leaving the company to his six sons, Robert, John, Ed, Ralph, Harry, and Charles Richard Reese. In 1963, they decided to sell the business to the Hershey’s Chocolate Company, where Reese had gotten his start close to 50 years before.
Documentation shows the brothers received 666,316 Hershey shares, then valued at $23.5 million. By 2013, after 50 years of stock splits, those shares had become sixteen million shares, valued at more than $1 billion, paying $31 million in annual cash dividends.
In 2010, Hershey sponsored a Facebook petition to declare May 18 I Love Reese’s Day and reported that 40,000 people signed it. Since then, it’s been promoted by the National Peanut Board and reigns as the most popular candy in the United States.
Today, Hershey announced it will introduce a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup stuffed with Reese’s Pieces. Tasty combination or culinary abomination? You decide and, no matter what your favorite is, have a happy I Love Reese’s Day!