Hooker Chemical Company

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Hooker Chemical Company
Founded1903; 120 years ago (1903) in Rochester, New York, United States
Defunct1968 (1968)
FateAcquired by Occidental Petroleum
Area served
United States
Productschloralkali products
ParentOccidental Petroleum

Hooker Chemical Company (or Hooker Electrochemical Company) was an American firm producing chloralkali products from 1903 to 1968. In 1922, bought the S. Wander & Sons Company to sell lye and chlorinated lime. The company became notorious in 1977, when residents near its chemical waste site, Love Canal, reported extraordinarily high incidences of leukemia, birth defects, and other injuries. Although Hooker had sold its old chemical waste dump site to the Niagara Falls School Board in 1953, the company was held responsible as a result of a lawsuit thereafter.[1]



Founded in 1903 as "the Development and Funding Company" by Elon Huntington Hooker, of Rochester, NY, the company used the Townsend cell to electrolyse salt into chlorine and sodium hydroxide (NaOH), also known as "caustic soda" and "lye," in a chloralkali process. Elmer Sperry, founder of Sperry Electric, and Leo Baekeland, inventor of Bakelite and Velox photographic paper, consulted Hooker to improve the design of the cell.[1]

The company was sited in Niagara Falls, NY foremost because of the low-cost electricity from the Niagara Falls power project, but also because of the abundance of salt from nearby mines, and availability of water from the Niagara River.[1]

First product lines[edit]

Chlorine, used for sanitation and the chlorination of drinking water, was sold as chlorinated lime and chlorobenzene, which was an ingredient for an explosive used in World War I. Later, solvents like trichloroethylene and phenol were sold for use by the subsidiary degreasing and dry cleaning company Detrex. Hooker licensed his diaphragm cell technology to other chloralkali producers.[1]

In 1918, Hooker formed a company to hydrogenate vegetable oils, while Hooker Chemical also began producing sulfur chloride and sodium chlorate.[1]

In 1922, Hooker bought the S. Wander & Sons Company for the retail sales of lye and chlorinated lime. Samuel Wander had a retail store at 105 Hudson St, New York, NY, and factories in Albany, NY.[2] Hooker sold the business in 1927. Hooker built a new chloralkali plant in Tacoma, WA in 1929. Additional products, including sodium sulfide, sodium sulfhydrate, sodium tetrasulfide, and aluminum chloride were produced by the company.[1]

World War II[edit]

In World War II, Hooker was a leading supplier of dodecyl mercaptan for the synthesis of rubber. The company also produced arsenic trichloride, thionyl chloride, and hexachlorobenzene. Hooker expanded into plastics manufacturing, developing epoxy vinyl ester resins, and in 1955 acquired a thermoset plastic phenolic resins business, called Durez Corp.[1]

Sale to Occidental Petroleum[edit]

Occidental Petroleum Corporation purchased Hooker Chemical Company in 1968. Since then, owners have renamed the company several times.


In 2002, filmmaker David J. Ruck told the story of the Hooker Chemical Company and its environmental negligence in Montague, Michigan, in the documentary film, This is Not a Chocolate Factory[3][4]

The films, The Killing Ground and A Fierce Green Fire, also explore the history of several of Hooker Chemical's dumping sites and the Love Canal tragedy.


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Thomas, Robert E. (1955). Salt & Water, Power & People: A Short History of Hooker Electrochemical Co. Niagara Falls, NY: Hooker Chemical Co. p. 109. ISBN 1258790807.
  2. ^ American Druggist and Pharmaceutical Record. Vol. 67. American Druggist Publishing Company. 1955 [1919]. ISBN 1344028950.
  3. ^ David Ruck (2013-05-08), This is Not a Chocolate Factory (2003), retrieved 2018-06-09
  4. ^ Ruck, David J. (2003-03-01), This is not a Chocolate Factory, retrieved 2018-06-09

External Links[edit]