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The town of Hercules was established as company housing by the California Powder Works in 1881 when it relocated its operations from San Francisco. Hercules was named after the company’s leading brand of explosive, in turn named after the mythical hero. Hercules was incorporated in 1900.

The city’s ethnically diverse population generally ranges from middle class to affluent. Hercules is home to a small amount of light manufacturing and high-tech industry as well as various commercial and retail activities. Most of the housing and other building stock is from the 1970s or newer. Attempts to develop mixed-use new development have begun in the waterfront district and around the intersection of I-80 and CA-4. The waterfront redevelopment includes the historic preservation and integration of a handful of buildings, some dating to Hercules’ founding as a company town.