Hooker Chemical Company

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Hooker Chemical Company, also known as Hooker Electrochemical Company and now Occidental Chemical Corporation, was an American chemical company that produced chlor-alkali products from 1903 to 1968. In 1922, Hooker bought the S. Wander & Sons company for the retail sales of lye and chlorinated lime. Hooker Chemical is best known for the chemical waste site Love Canal, which it sold in 1953, and led to a lengthy lawsuit several decades later.[1]

History[edit]

Founding[edit]

The company was founded in 1903 as "The Development and Funding Company" by Elon Huntington Hooker, of Rochester, NY. Hooker created a company that 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 for Hooker to improve the design of the cell.[1]

The company was sited in Niagara Falls, NY because of the low cost electricity from the Niagara Falls power project (completed in 1895), 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. Chlorine products were produced, including chlorobenzene, which was then converted to picric acid, for use as an explosive in World War I. Later, solvents like trichloroethylene and phenol were sold for degreasing and dry cleaning by the subsidiary company Detrex. Hooker licensed his diaphragm cell technology to other chloralkali producers.[1]

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

In 1922, Hooker bought the S. Wander & Sons company for the retail sales of lye and chlorinated lime. Samual 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 chlor-alkali 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 capabilities, developing epoxy vinyl ester resins, and in 1955 acquiring a thermoset plastic phenolic resins business, called Durez Corp.[1]

Selling[edit]

Hooker Chemical Company was purchased by Occidental Petroleum Corporation in 1968. Its name has changed a few times.

Documentary[edit]

The saga of Hooker Chemical Company in Montague, Michigan was documented by filmmaker David J. Ruck in 2002. The film, "This is Not a Chocolate Factory" features the history of the site, its polluting practices and citizen response.

References[edit]

  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". 67. American Druggist Publishing Company. 1955 [1919]. ISBN 1344028950.