Amusement parks Leadership

Charles F. Ziegler

Charles Franklin Ziegler was born in Lancaster County, PA on August 17, 1884, to Frank and Ida Ziegler.

Ziegler first met Milton S. Hershey in his childhood. According to a biography in the Lancaster New Era, he had seen Hershey walking through snow on Church Street, so Ziegler grabbed a shovel and cleared a path for him. Hershey paid Ziegler a dime for his effort.

Charles F. Ziegler

By 1910, he was a stenographer in a law office in Lancaster. On November 6, 1912, he married Elsie M. Kindig. They had their first son Richard four years later in 1916. Ziegler attended Pennsylvania Business College, which he completed in six months. He worked in the law office of C.E. Montgomery and Appel and Appel. His experience at those practices led him to be noticed by John Myers, a local real estate practitioner, who recommended his services to John Snyder, lawyer to Milton S. Hershey. Ziegler was hired by Snyder in 1918.

In the 1920s, Ziegler became the real estate man for the Hershey Chocolate Company. He developed a proper organizing system for all of the titles and deeds. Ziegler, along with John B. Sollenberger, would be influential on developing the Hershey Convention Center into an ice rink and creating a hockey team – the Hershey Bears. By the mid 1920s, Ziegler was Hershey Chocolate Company’s general notary.

In 1927, Ziegler provided legal assistance with dividing the company interests into Hershey Chocolate Corporation and Hershey Estates. This led him to be best known as the real estate man for Hershey, as well as his right hand man.

On January 1, 1928, Ziegler was promoted as General Manager of Hershey Estates. This made him the effective chief executive of the company, despite there being a president of the company. By 1936, Ziegler was promoted to president and the general manager title was retired. He succeeded William F. R. Murrie and Milton S. Hershey as president.

In the years of his work he was president of other companies including the Hershey Electric Company, Hershey Water Company, and Hershey Baking Company. He was a member of the Board of Managers of Milton Hershey School, a director of Hershey National Bank, Hershey Trust Company, and the M.S. Hershey Foundation.

Historic Hersheypark Arena

Ziegler was heavily involved with the process of building Historic Hersheypark Arena. He had been involved with the project of converting the Hershey Convention Center into an ice rink that they called the Ice Palace.

Hershey Convention Hall c.1930.

The only problem with the Ice Palace was that it was small and couldn’t fit many people. The managers of Hershey Estates had been receiving complaints in the mail about lack of seating.

In having a discussion with Mr. Hershey, Ziegler said he didn’t know what to do. Mr. Hershey said, “Well, we are going to build a big arena.” When Hershey said that, Ziegler admitted he hadn’t heard of such a plan, to which Hershey said, “I know, I’m telling you about it now.” According to Ziegler, he saw the twinkle in Mr. Hershey’s eyes in the way he did when he sprang a new surprise.

Historic Hersheypark Arena, 2010

Ziegler traveled to Canada with several other people from Hershey Estates to get ideas of what kind of arena to build. Initially he proposed a 5,500 seat arena, but Mr. Hershey thought it was too small. They revised the plans, adjusting it to 7,200 seats which Mr. Hershey approved.

When the new Historic Hersheypark Arena opened as Hershey Sports Arena, it was a sellout. Mr. Hershey only needed to say one thing to Ziegler: “See, I told you.”

Mr. Hershey’s passing

Milton S. Hershey’s 88th birthday celebration, from the Harrisburg Telegraph

In 1945, Ziegler was one of the attendees of Mr. Hershey’s 88th birthday party which was celebrated at the Homestead on September 13.

When Mr. Hershey passed away one month later on October 13, Ziegler was among a number of honorary pallbearers for Mr. Hershey.

Retirement

Ziegler retired as president of Hershey Estates on September 1, 1949. He was succeeded in the role by John B. Sollenberger.

He remained as director on various boards that he served on. His plans for his retirement years included taking a trip to New Orleans and an road trip through the western United States.

In January 1957, Ziegler was likely diagnosed with liver cancer. News reports of the time do not specify this, however, he needed to have surgery to relieve his health issue. He did not fully recover; Ziegler passed away on September 22, 1957, in Hershey Hospital. According to his death certificate, the cause of death was liver cancer brought on by chronic cholelithiasis. The certificate dates the onset of the liver cancer to January 1957.

He was laid to rest on September 25, at Hershey Cemetery. His pallbearers were Kenneth V. Hatt, Glenn C. Hummer, George R. Nye, Brent Hancock, Marlin E. Balsbaugh, and George H. Booth. The honorary pallbearers were the membership of the Hershey Estate board of directors.


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I have a wide variety of interests, from sports to politics, music to Star Trek. I write about the history of amusement parks on my website, The Amusement Parkives, which I founded in 2016.

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