Hercules is a city in western Contra Costa County, California. Situated along the coast of San Pablo Bay, it is located in the eastern region of the San Francisco Bay Area, about north of Berkeley. Hercules has a 2010 population of 24,060 according to the U.S. Census.
Upon relocating its operations from San Francisco in 1881, California Powder Works established company housing in the area that is now the city of Hercules. The city was named after the company's leading product, in turn, named after the Greek demigod, Hercules.
Hercules contributed significantly to the production of explosives during both World Wars. By the Second World War, the plant had diversified to produce fertilizers and other chemical products. However, by this time the surrounding area was experiencing rapid growth as the commuter belt moved further outward from San Francisco. Study has been made of upper layer soil contamination from prior emissions of the California Powder Works operations. Eventually the facility was out-competed by foreign manufacturers, and the plant was closed in 1976. By the mid-1970s Centex Homes and other developers began to build new subdivisions and changed Hercules into a residential suburb.
In the 1970s, Hercules was one of the first cities in the United States to develop a comprehensive Noise Element of the General Plan. This work included the production of noise contour maps for all major highways and arterial roads, as well as a city-wide mitigation plan.
Hercules was incorporated in 1900. The first post office was established in 1914. By the 1940s Hercules organized its own law enforcement department and longtime Hercules Powder Company employee William Darke was named sheriff, becoming its first officer.