Boom Times

Trade Booth for Farmers (circa 1920–1935)

Trade booths played a valuable role in marketing explosives to farmers.


Advertisement: “Turp and Tine” (1930)

Naval stores is a broad term that today refers to any product derived from pine-tree sap. Originally the term was used to describe such resin-based products as turpentine, rosin, pitch, and tar used in building and maintaining ships. Throughout its existence Hercules showed itself adept at transforming previously worthless substances, such as kelp, into valuable products, such as acetone and potash. The popular advertising duo, “Turp” and “Tine,” pictured here, helped Hercules become a brand name for turpentine.


Tree Stumps (circa 1925–1935)

As clear-cutting depleted the pine forests Hercules relied on, the company developed a method to extract naval-store chemicals from the vast fields of tree stumps and roots that farmers wanted removed. During the 1920s stumps were frequently dynamited out of the ground, hand loaded onto wagons, and hauled by mules to the nearest railway, where they were transported to the closest Hercules plant. By 1930 many of these operations substituted bulldozers for dynamite and trucks for mules.


Advertisement: “Materials Our Grandmothers Never Knew” (1930)

Hercules’s Naval Stores Department opened up new markets for the company’s products, including compounds designed for the textile industry. For example, Hercules turned its pine oil into an effective solvent that removed dirt and grease from cotton, wool, and other natural and synthetic fibers. Pine oil gradually replaced other mineral and vegetable oils in preparing fabrics for dyeing.


Specialty Naval Stores Hercolyn and Abalyn

In the 1930s the Naval Stores Department expanded into specialty chemicals, such as Hercolyn and Abalyn. Hercolyn is commonly used in cosmetics as a fragrance fixative and to provide adhesion and gloss in lipstick. Abalyn is a plasticizer used in adhesive products like tape and labels. These synthetic products had useful properties, such as less odor and greater water resistance when compared with their natural versions. Initial sales were disappointing, however, as the company struggled to create markets for these new products. But such chemicals were part of Hercules’s transformation from a producer of commodities made from raw materials into a creator of synthetic chemicals.


R. H. Dunham Laying Cornerstone (1930)

By 1930 the list of Hercules’s new products was growing monthly. The Hercules Experimental Station, located in Kenvil, New Jersey, was by then unable to handle the company’s research needs. A new site was chosen in Wilmington, Delaware, to serve as Hercules’s new Headquarters and Research Station. At the dedication ceremony in 1930, President R. H. Dunham remarked, “I lay this corner-stone with the thought that . . . Hercules men and women in the years to come may find a common rallying place where useful things can be done for the benefit of our company and the world at large.”