Main content

Records of Hercules Incorporated


Held at: Science History Institute Archives [Contact Us]315 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19106

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the Science History Institute Archives. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.

Overview and metadata sections

Hercules Inc. began as the Hercules Powder Company. A 1912 antitrust settlement led to Hercules Powder Company being splint off from Du Pont with a portion of Du Pont's patents being assigned to it. War World I spurred the growth of Hercules and during the post war period the company explored new uses for its stockpiles of naval stores and nitrocellulose. In 1930 a state of the art Experimental Station opened in Wilmington, DE and new divisions for new product lines were subsequently added. The company experienced another growth spurt during World War II and, in the war's aftermath, became heavily involved in the emerging field of missile and rocket technology. The winding down of these programs during the waning years of the Cold War and the purchase of Betz-Dearborn at a per-share price that industry insiders found excessive led to a decline in the value of Hercules Inc. stock, making it a tempting takeover target, despite ongoing attempts to streamline and modernize its operations. In 2008 Hercules Inc. was acquired by the Ashland Corporation.

For a more detailed inventory, please view this record in our library catalog:

The bulk of the collection covers the period 1913, shortly after the company's formation as a manufacturer of double base gun powders to 1976 when the company had greatly diversified, even expanding into rocketry. The Hercules Mixer the company's major internal organ gives a nice inside look into day to day life at Hercules, while the extensive collection of advertising materials, covering the years 1913 through 1952, documents the company's growth as a major manufacturer of chemical products. There is also a significant body of material detailing the operations of a Hercules Plant at San Diego, CA, instrumental in the production of acetone from giant kelp harvested from the coastal waters, which allowed Hercules to become a major provider of military explosives for the Allies in World War 1. The bulk of the collection is comprised of the serial title the Hercules Mixer and bound volumes of Hercules print advertisements collected by year. There are also important mini collections dealing with a World War 1 project to obtain acetone (for the manufacture of cordite) from giant kelp and the planning and construction of the Hercules Experiment Station.

Organized into ten series: I. Publications, II Public Relations III Hercules History, IV. Advertising, V. Governance, VI. Division Files, VII. Treasurer's Office, VIII. Research Papers and Informational Brochure, IX. Oversized Items, X. Hercules Audiovisual Materials.

Images were removed; records were arranged into series by processing archivist.

A large portion of this collection has been digitized and is available online in our Digital Collections:

Source of acquisition--Hercules Inc. (Barbara H. Brockett). Method of acquisition--gift;; Date of acquisition--2012..

Science History Institute Archives

Collection Inventory

Print, Suggest