Little Bits of History

Sticky Situation

Posted in History by patriciahysell on September 8, 2015
Scotch cellulose tape

Scotch cellulose tape*

September 8, 1930: Richard Drew gains a new customer base. 3M Company, formerly Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Company, was founded in 1902. Five men started what was originally a mining company but their dreams dissolved when there was no corundum in their mines. John Dwan bought out two of the partners and took over the company in 1905. They would sell sandpaper. That was their product line. Sandpaper. And that alone. It took a decade, but finally the company was financially stable and even able to pay out dividends. The moved headquarters from Duluth to St. Paul where it remained for 52 years. It then moved to Maplewood, Minnesota where it remains today with over 50 buildings, including the Innovation Center which displays the multitudinous products 3M produces today.

Richard Drew was born in St. Paul in 1899 and joined 3M in 1920. During that time, he worked with auto body shops testing the new Wetordry sandpaper 3M produced. He noted that the two tone paint jobs, popular during the Roaring Twenties, were difficult to manage. Making a straight border between colors was a problem. In order solve the problem, Drew went back to the labs and two years later had created a two-inch wide tan paper strip with light, pressure-sensitive adhesive – masking tape. The first tape held along the edges, but not in the middle and in the first trial runs, it fell off the cars.

At the time, Scotsmen were considered to be more than just a bit frugal, and using the term as an insult, Drew was instructed by an unhappy painter to take the product back to his Scotch bosses and get more adhesive put on it. The nickname stuck but the product was perfected. Not only did Drew add more adhesive, but he began using a different strip to place it on. By using cellulose, it was possible to have a clear strip which would stick. He came up with the first iteration of the substance in 1925 but it needed years of improvements. Scotch tape in the US was called sellotape in the UK. After the market crash of 1929, there was an increased need for repairs. The clear tape was sold as a fixer of all things that were now too precious to throw away.

The product’s mascot for twenty years was Scotty McTape, a kilt-wearing cartoon boy. The familiar tartan pattern is still associated with the brand. The name was so popular it was used for other products as well such as Scotchgard and Scotchlite. Today, 3M is still involved with adhesives and abrasives, but they are also makers of laminates and passive fire protection as well as dental and orthodontic products, electronic materials, medical products, and car care products. Their list of products is astoundingly long. They have 29 international companies with manufacturing operations and 35 with laboratories. Inge Thulin is Chairman, President, and CEO of the company which has about 88,000 employees. Their revenue for 2013 was $30.871 billion and they had a total equity of $17.948 billion.

I am very happy when people write that they have worn out my books, or that they are held together by Scotch tape. I consider that the ultimate compliment. – Richard Scarry

You can do a lot with Scotch tape. Almost anything! I love that you can hem a dress, and its an instant remedy in a fashion crises. – Jennifer Garner

No amount of time can erase the memory of a good cat, and no amount of masking tape can ever totally remove his fur from your couch. – Leo F. Buscaglia

It is one thing putting away the past, and quite another to tape its mouth shut. – Liam Lacey

Also on this day: Something in the Water – In 1854, Dr. John Snow saved London from an outbreak of cholera.
There She Is – In 1921, Margaret Gorman became the first Miss America.
David Revealed – In 1504, Michelangelo’s statue was unveiled.
Flags – In 1892, the Pledge of Allegiance appeared in print for the first time.
Puppet Show Calamity – In 1727, a puppet show ended in mass deaths.

* “Scotch Tape” by Improbcat – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons –


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