General view of an unidentified employee washing so-called "chemical cotton" as part of the continuous bleaching process at the Hercules Powder Company plant in Hopewell, Virginia. Chemical cotton, a type of purified cellulose obtained from raw cotton linters, is commonly used for the manufacture of cellulose ethers, i.e. water-soluble polymers that have a variety of uses as thickeners, binders, and water-retention agents in products ranging from ceramics and paints to food, cosmetics, and pharmaceuticals.
Formed in 1912 as part of an anti-trust settlement with DuPont, the Hercules Powder Company (later Hercules Inc.) initially specialized in the manufacture of explosives and smokeless powders and subsequently diversified its business to encompass a variety of industrial products, including pine and paper chemicals, synthetics, pigments, polymers, and cellulose.
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Hercules Incorporated. “Employee Washing Chemical Cotton at Hercules Hopewell Plant,” 1957. Photographs from the Records & Ephemera of Hercules Incorporated, Box 1, Folder 37. Science History Institute. Philadelphia. https://digital.sciencehistory.org/works/cj82k806t.
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