Close-up view of several rolls of sheeted cotton linters mounted on spindles at the Hercules Powder Company's Ethyl Cellulose plant in Hopewell, Virginia. Per notations accompanying the photograph, the cotton was mounted on spindles before being fed into a disintegrator; from there, the shredded pulp was pneumatically conveyed into a charging hopper. At the Hopewell plant, raw cotton linters were used to make "chemical cotton," a purified cellulose 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. “Sheeted Cotton Linters at Hercules Hopewell Plant,” June 17, 1940. Photographs from the Records & Ephemera of Hercules Incorporated, Box 1, Folder 35. Science History Institute. Philadelphia. https://digital.sciencehistory.org/works/rr171x96x.
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