1975 Hercules Inc.


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Stock Code VM-HER01


1975 8.75%, $5000 certificate, due 1983. Issued by this Delaware-based chemical company with a facility in Zwijndrecht, Netherlands. Vignette of the Greek hero, Hercules wearing a lion's head and carrying a club.  Printed signatures of S R Clarke, treasurer and Werner C Brown, company president.

Certificate size is 20.5 cm high x 30 cm wide (8" x 12"). It will be mounted in a mahogany frame, with gold inlay, size 31 cm high x 39 cm wide.

The certificate is shown unframed as all items are mounted to order.

Company History

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History of the company and town of Hercules

The name Hercules comes from a potent and explosive black powder made by the California Powder Works.  The company named their product after Hercules, the Greek mythological hero known for his strength, in order to signify how powerful the black powder was.  What began as a California Powder Works plant site on the shores of San Pablo Bay grew into the company town of Hercules, which thrived through one hundred years, three transferals of ownership, and five wars.

When the American Industrial Revolution began in the 1800's, California Powder Works joined the ranks and started a company on the west coast, near Santa Cruz, California, in 1861.  In the business of making black powder, a highly explosive substance, the company prospered and provided fierce competition for the other west coast explosive firms.  In 1868, the company began producing dynamite.

In 1869, California Powder Works established a dynamite plant in San Francisco in the same area that is now Golden Gate Park.  As San Francisco developed and the populace moved closer to the plant, the dangerous business of producing explosives proved undesirable, and California Powder Works was forced to find a new location.

In 1879, California Powder Works began purchasing land on the isolated shores of San Pablo Bay.  The plant was constructed in two years, and finally, in 1881 began producing dynamite.   For safety purposes, the buildings were constructed in a series of gullies and ravines.  The Hercules plant did not start manufacturing black powder until 1893, when the entire Santa Cruz plant and works moved north to re-establish in Hercules.

From 1881 until 1919, 59 lives were taken by explosions.  The majority of the devastating blasts happened in the nitro-glycerine house and in the building in which the dynamite was produced.  The most disastrous explosion occurred in February, 1908, when 24 men were killed in a single explosion.

Before the United States Government declared war on Germany, the Hercules plant was involved in World War I producing dynamite and TNT (trinitrotoluene) for the Allied Forces.  In 1915, the plant manufactured 20,000 pounds of explosives daily, but in 1917, after the U. S. entered the War, over seven million pounds of TNT per month were produced, making Hercules the largest-producing plant in the United States. Throughout its history, the Hercules plant experienced changes due to expansion and new product development.  The powder company was easing out if its role as a manufacturer of explosives as early as 1940, when an anhydrous ammonia plant (NH3fertilizer) was built.

In 1959, Hercules began construction of a multi-million dollar manufacturing facility, the first of its kind in the western states.  The company's goal was to annually produce eight million gallons of methanol, 50 million pounds of formaldehyde, and 11 thousand tons of urea formaldehyde composition.  Completed in 1966, these were the 1st buildings constructed in Hercules' 25 years transition from explosives to fertilizer.  Since it no longer manufactured black powder, the Hercules Powder Company was re-named Hercules, Incorporated.

In 1976, Hercules, Inc. sold the plant site to Valley Nitrogen Producers, a chemical and fertilizer producing corporation which owned other plants in California.

The plant at Hercules had operated without labor problems for over 95 years under the ownership of the Hercules Powder Company.  While relations between the company and the workers did become strained at times, no disputes became critical enough to cause a strike.  The only strike in the plant's history was a bitter labor/management dispute which curtailed operations in 1977, after Valley Nitrogen Producers had taken control of the plant.

The plant was closed permanently.  Cost and profit contributed to the final shutdown that ended the strike and laid off employees.  It actually became cheaper to purchase the product from another country and ship it to Hercules than it was to manufacture it here.  The cost of natural gas, a vital part of fertilizer production, had skyrocketed with inflation.

The infamous drought of 1977 also added validity to the idea of closing the plant, because the farmers had no need to fertilize their crops if they could not irrigate.  Immediately after shutdown in November of 1977, the plant was offered for sale.  It remained idle until 1979, when it was purchased by a group of investors called Hercules Properties, Ltd.

After Hercules, Inc. ceased dynamite production in the 60's, the Company realized that it no longer needed the large parcels of surrounding land which had served as a buffer zone.  They decided to create a new city on the land outside the plant.  The City Council developed a General Plan to form a new city.  After two years of working with consultants and holding numerous public meetings, the General plan for a city of 22,000 residents by the year 2000 was adopted by the Council.

Hercules, Inc. had originally intended to develop the land rather than sell it to other developers.  After a close examination of the immensity of the project, they decided that their lack of experience in the development field would make the project undesirable.  They began selling the land to other developers.  In 1974, Centex Homes of California, Inc., purchased the first section of land, a large residential area near the north-eastern boundary of the City.

The Centex purchase was a gamble.  No one was sure that people would be willing to move to this part of the East Bay.  Most new housing was being constructed in Central Contra Costa County and Alameda County. The work that went into the General Plan paid off.  People lined up to buy the new Centex homes finished in 1975.  New residents were attracted to the rural feeling of open space and to affordable houses.  Hercules was a booming town once again.

Source: www.herculescc.com


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