An indispensable household item
January 31, 2023
When I think of inventions which have made my life – and millions of others – better there are a few which leap to mind: indoor plumbing, electricity, central heating, and refrigeration being at the top of the list.
But today we celebrate an invention which – in the world of inventions – I have a difficult time imagining it NOT existing. It is ostensibly, at times, a nearly invisible product but one which makes so many things easier.
Today is Scotch Tape Day according to the National Day’s Calendar. While the Infallible Wikipedia does have a section on this ubiquitous product, I found the National Days information more compelling:
“In the early 1920s, Richard Drew worked at the Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Company, which made sandpaper at the time. When he used to deliver sandpaper samples to auto body shops, he observed the inconvenience that car painters experienced when they had to paint two-tone color cars. At that time, surgical adhesive tapes or library glues were used to hold newspapers on cars when painting. However, when the newspapers were removed, residue remained and would rip the paint off when peeled off.
This inspired Drew to come up with a long-term and efficient solution. He went on to invent masking tape made out of crêpe paper, cabinetmaker’s glue, and glycerin. It adhered well to cars and came off easily without taking paint away. It was later marketed as Scotch Masking Tape. (snip)
The invention of Scotch Tape, which can now be found in almost every home, resulted in Drew being inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame.”
All of that is interesting, but what I was most entertained by is the explanation of how it came to be called ‘Scotch’ tape.
For those of you, like myself, who claim some Scottish heritage you might know that the Scottish people are known as being, well, frugal at best, and tight fisted cheapskates at worst.
Scottish people prefer to think of it as being careful with our assets.
We turn to the Infallible Wikipedia for this explanation:
“The use of the term Scotch in the name was a pejorative meaning ‘parsimonious’in the 1920s and 1930s. The brand name Scotch came about around 1925 while Richard Drew was testing his first masking tape to determine how much adhesive he needed to add. The bodyshop painter became frustrated with the sample masking tape and exclaimed, ‘Take this tape back to those Scotch bosses of yours and tell them to put more adhesive on it!’ The name was soon applied to the entire line of 3M tapes.”
Rather than force you to go look up the meaning of parsimonious, here’s a list of synonyms:
Those are not so bad. Yet the list continues:
Chintzy… miserly… stingy…
Greedy… illiberal… skinflint… tightwad…
Needless to say, that painter was none too impressed with that first tape. Thankfully, 3M did get the formula right and a wide variety of Scotch ‘Tapes’ have become household items. Whether it is the infinitely useful masking tape, or the clear varieties used to tape together untold torn papers, Christmas and birthday wrappings, the 3M product is estimated to be present in 90 percent of all American homes.
A quick look in one of my desk drawers turned up seven scotch tape products: five clear tape dispensers, one box of tape – opened but unusued – I taped it shut, and a mostly used roll of masking tape. And that was just in my office. I have no idea what I might find elsewhere in the house.
Apparently one can never have too much Scotch tape. All purchased on sale, no doubt. It’s the Scotch in me.