Blast from the Past: Beyond Powder

The last days as a company town.

As early as the 1940's, the Powder Works management could see the writing on the wall.  The future was not going to be in dynamite.  To continue to thrive as a company, they would need to transition to other products.

For Hercules, the future was fertilizer.

In the late '50s, construction began in earnest of a multi-million dollar production facility to eventually complete the transition to fertilizer manufacturing.  By 1964, dynamite production ceased entirely, and the new facility was fully complete in 1966.  Even the company's name would be changed to Hercules, Incorporated.  Hercules Powder was now just a memory.

However, the new Hercules, Inc. would soon discover the manufacture of fertilizer to be a very expensive proposition.  Complying with environmental standards would be costly.  Money invested in the plant was focused almost solely on maintenance instead of improvements.  As a result, competition was passing them by.  By the mid-70's, Hercules, Inc. was shopping the plant around for potential buyers.

In 1976, the plant was sold to Valley Nitrogen Producers, who owned other production plants throughout California.  They immediately invested money and training to bring the plant up to date.  However, relations between workers and management deteriorated almost immediately.  In 1977, for the first time in the plant's history, the workers went on strike.

Valley Nitrogen initially ran the plant with replacement workers.  However, the combination of the cost of running the plant, the cheapness of imported fertilizer, and 1977's killer drought led the company to close the plant completely.  The plant was shut down, for good, in November 1977.

* * * * *

Just another friendly reminder about the Hercules History Expo coming up on October 22nd, 11am-4pm at the Library.  If you like these posts and want to learn about the history of other local areas, this is a can't-miss event.  And, it's FREE!  As in, it won't cost you anything.  Seriously, why on Earth would you miss this?

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