The Real History of Duct Tape
by Jim and Tim, the Duct Tape Guys

Tim and me researched the history of duct tape extensively - we even looked in books. As far as we can figure out, duct tape was invented in Greece in about 400B.C. by a guy named Socrates Duct (pictured to the right). His house had a big hole in one of the walls which was letting a draft in. When Duct went out to the woods to get some wood to fix the hole, he accidentally got some pine sap stuck to the bottom of his toga, which stuck to his leg and made him really uncomfortable. When he got home, Duct ripped of the sticky strip of toga and stuck it over the hole in the wall, and just like that, no more draft!

He showed his repair job to his buddies, and they started using the combination of cloth and sticky stuff to fix all sorts of stuff. They called it Duct tape after Socrates Duct, but then he got famous and dropped the "Duct" so he only had one name like Madonna and Cher. After that, everybody started asking him what other ideas he had, and pretty soon he was spouting off about everything. The rest is history.

The Other Real History of Duct Tape

Despite Jim and Tim's research, most adhesive historians prescribe to another theory of the development of duct tape. Many agree that ADHESIVE TAPE (not duct tape) was invented in the 1920's by 3M Company researchers led by Richard Drew.

During World War II, the American armed forces needed a strong, waterproof tape to keep moisture out of ammunition cases. Because it was waterproof, everyone referred to it as "duck" tape (now a brand name of Manco). This versatile tape was used as a mending material that could be ripped by hand and used to make quick repairs to jeeps, aircraft, and other military equipment. The Johnson and Johnson Company's Permacel division, which had by then developed its own line of adhesive tapes, helped the war effort by combining cloth mesh (which rips easily) with a rubber-based adhesive, and then gave that combination of rubberized, waterproof coating. (No specific person or group of people at Johnson and Johnson have been named in the development of duct tape. Don't ask them... they don't know.)

Following the war, housing in the United States boomed, and many new homes featured forced-air heating and air-conditioning units that relied on duct work to distribute warmth and coolness. Johnson and Johnson's strong military tape made the perfect material for binding and repairing the duct work. By changing the color of the tape's rubberized top coat from Army green to sheet metal gray, "duct" tape was born.

From Duct Tape Book Two - Real Stories, by Jim and Tim
©1996 Tim Nyberg Creative, Inc.

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Get more research info at Duct Tape 101