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 –

Sticking to Business

Posted in History by patriciahysell on January 31, 2010

Scotch tape dispenser

January 31, 1930: 3M markets Scotch tape. Richard Drew developed the handy adhesive tape for the 3M corporation. It is a trademarked brand name, but is used generically across America. The clear tape was an improvement over the previously made masking tape. Drew not only developed the adhesive for the new material, cellophane, but went on to invent Duct tape as well. He was the inventor of masking tape five years prior to this.

The term “Scotch” in the name is not at all flattering. While the adhesive was being tested, it came loose because it was not fully coated with the active ingredients. The remark was a pejorative aside reflecting the stereotype of Scotch stinginess. Not one to let the moment pass, 3M created Scotty McTape, a kilt wearing cartoon lad to be the product mascot from 1944 and continuing on for two decades. The Wallace tartan plaid was added to the brand in 1945.

3M makes over 275 different kinds of tape, eighty-eight of them bearing the Scotch label. The company not only made tape, but has a variety of other ventures including defense materials, fabric protection, and videotape. The term “Scotch” is also added as a prefix to other products made by the company, Scotchguard and Schotchlite.

Perhaps the best known and most used product from 3M is the Post-It note. The original square yellow readherable paper now comes in a variety of shapes and a panoply of colors and has been widely copied by other manufacturers. Art Fry used Spencer Silver’s adhesive to create the handy removable papers. Silver invented the adhesive in 1968 and it took five years before Fry figured out a better use than simply bookmarking pages in a hymnal. The 1977 product launch wasn’t immediately successful but by 1980 the product was sold nationally and the next year also introduced in Canada.

“We patched it up with chewing gum and Scotch tape.” – Norm Hewitt

“The entrepreneurial approach is not a sideline at 3M. It is the heart of our design for growth.” – Lewis Lehr

“One only needs two tools in life: WD-40 to make things go, and duct tape to make them stop.” – G. Weilacher

“I was reading a book… ‘the history of glue’ – I couldn’t put it down.” – Tim Vine

Also on this day, in 1958 Explorer I was launched and the Van Allen Belts were found.

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