The History of Tape: A Brief Overview


Have you ever got a piece of mail or package at your front door and have wondered about the tape that’s covering the package? What kind of tape did they use? Was it brown packing tape? Regardless of what kind of tape it was some of us have always wondered the history of tape and where it originated. We will look back in a brief history of tape that will include how it got started, who invented it, and the importance that tape as in our lives today.

In 1899, Richard Gurley Drew was born in St. Paul, Minnesota. Mr. Drew attended school at the University of Minnesota where he was a part of the mechanical engineering program for just a year before dropping out of college. After he left school he used the information in the knowledge of the acquired to obtain a job as a lab technician. While he was working, one of the things that he had to do was the lever sandpaper samples to car shops for them to test out and see which ones they liked best. It wasn’t uncommon for Mr. Drew to hear the automotive workers talk about the problems with painting cars for a two-tone paint job. Typically, what automotive shop guys did was attempt to use newspaper and glue it onto the part of the car that was already painted in order to prevent a mixture of the second color paint. Others would use a 1920s version of tape that wouldn’t do as good of a job as adhesive tape would today due to the lack of the seal and left-over residue that the 1920s tape would leave on cars. This is where Mr. Drew drew inspiration to develop and create a new type of tape that would have no sticky residue after peeling off and a seal to prevent paint from mixing with the other color of the car. Over the course of approximately two years Mr. Drew completed his invention in 1925.

His invention would skyrocket his career. However, this wasn’t his only invention. Four years later in 1929, Mr. Drew had come up with a second idea that would again change the world of tape. The basis was to improve upon one company’s invention of cellophane, which was used at the time to pack groceries. This would lead to Mr. Drew and his team to develop a clear adhesive that would be able to work on cellophane. This was Cellulose Tape. Even though wasn’t as popular as some thought it would be with the original market groups, it found uses in everyday homes.

This is how the origins of adhesive tapes began. It all started off with a college dropout who needed a job and wanted to use the information he had learned to help improve the world than one way or another. What started out as an easier way to help paint cars, turned into an item that we see in everyday households.