Believe it or not, Reese's Peanut Butter Cups were named after a person- H.B. Reese. A former dairy employee of Milton S. Hershey, founder of Hershey Foods Corporation, Reese was so inspired by Hershey's work ethic in the dairy farm that he left to create a start-up in the candy industry.
Born in 1879 on a farm in Frosty Hill, Pa. (York County), Reese was not very fond of farming, a dislike that would affect his fate later on.. As a youth, he took a variety of jobs including country butchering and oil burner selling before moving to Hershey, Pa., in 1917.
Following ventures in nearby Hummelstown and Palmyra, where he had some success with Johnny Bars and Lizzie Bars (caramel-like molasses and coconut candy), he moved back to Hershey, a few blocks from the already famous Hershey chocolate manufacturing facility. He then developed the peanut butter cup, a product and concept almost unheard of in the candy industry.
The early peanut butter cups were sold in five pound boxes for use in candy assortments, but the popularity of the specific candy had Reese tasting a business opportunity (no pun intended). Sold by themselves for a penny a piece, their popularity skyrocketed during World War II. The cups were advertised as "a product that both the young and the old alike can eat and enjoy." The packaging of the cups has changed little- even in the 30's and 40's did they sport the classic orange, yellow, and brown wrapping.
As the popularity of the cups increased over the years, it became clear that a larger factory would be needed. In August 1957, a 100,000 square foot facility was created along Chocolate Avenue for the production. Six years later,the company was sold for 23.5 million dollars to Hershey Chocolate Company, later renamed to Hershey Foods Corporation.
Steady growth through the 70's and 80's inspired a new generation of candy makers to expand on the Reese's line. In 1976 the Reese's Crunchy Peanut Butter Cup was introduced, which offered chopped peanuts inside the candy. In 1992 plain Reese's Peanut Butter was introduced, letting fans of the heavily sugared peanut goo create unique and sweet sandwiches. Reese's Baking Bits released in 1994, and in 1998 ReeseSticks were launched. While all products turned a profit, the original Reese's Cups still overshadow the other Reese's confections.
Reese's also reshapes the candy for various holidays, including Reese's Eggs for Easter, pumpkins for Halloween, and caramel and peanut eggs for Valentine's Day.