Duct Tape History: 6 Historic Facts About Duct Tape

Duct tape, which is also called duck tape, is a very useful tape that is strong, durable, and pressure-sensitive. You probably have at least a roll or two at home or at work, and you might use it to repair different things. Since its invention, tape has gone through many forms and evolutions, and you can even design customized tape to fit your needs.

But where does duct tape come from? When, and why was it invented? If you want to know more about this popular tape, here is a piece of duct tape history for you.

1. The U.S Army used to seal their ammunition cases with wax and paper tape

The duct tape history goes as far back as World War II, where the troops’ ammunition cases could be difficult to open. To protect the ammunition from moisture, the boxes were sealed with wax and paper tape. The soldiers had to pull on a tab to break the seal and open the cases, but unfortunately, this didn’t always work out as it was supposed to.

2. A concerned mother thought there should be a better way to seal these cases

Vesta Stoudt, a woman working at a factory that was packing ammunition cases, grew concerned about the fact that they were difficult to open for soldiers who were engaged in battle. As the mother of two Navy sailors, she thought there should be a better, more efficient way to seal these cases.

She had the idea to use water-resistant cloth to make packing tape that would protect the ammunition, but be easy to peel off. Her factory supervisors were not that interested in her idea, so she ended up writing a letter to President Franklin Roosevelt.

In her letter, she explained her idea, and how she strongly believed that making the ammunition cases easier to open could help save lives. She urged the President to act quickly, and he did.

3. Johnson & Johnson developed the duck tape

President Roosevelt and his military officials approved Vesta Stoudt’s idea, and not long after, Johnson & Johnson, a company specializing in medical supplies, was asked to develop and manufacture a cloth-backed tape with a strong adhesive.

The original duck tape came in army green. It was called duck tape because it was created with a layer of cotton duck, a plain woven cotton fabric that has many different applications.

The word duck has nothing to see with ducks: it comes from the Dutch word doek, which means linen canvas. Duck tape was made with a layer of this cotton canvas coated in waterproof polyethylene, and a layer of strong rubber-based adhesive.

4. Soldiers started to use their duck tape for many purposes

U.S. soldiers loved their waterproof and versatile duck tape, and they began using it for much more than simply sealing their ammunition boxes. It didn’t take too long before they started using it to repair their boots, their furniture, their guns, and even their vehicles.

Duck tape has even been used to quickly and temporarily close up wounds during an emergency situation. It was designed to be ripped by hand, not cut with scissors, which contributed to its popularity.

5. After the war, duck tape became duct tape

After the war, soldiers came home with their beloved duck tape. A silver coloured version of the tape was released, to be used in households to connect and seal heating and air conditioning ducts. As a result, the popular duck tape began to be referred to as duct tape.

Ironically, researchers determined that duct tape should not be used on heating ducts, since it can become brittle, release toxic smoke, or even catch fire when it’s exposed to heat.
Different types of heat-resistant tape have been designed specifically to seal heating and air conditioning ducts. These tapes are commonly called duct tapes, but they are not the same as the duct tape that was first designed for soldiers during World War II.

6. Today, duct tape has many alternative uses

It was first army green, then metallic silver. Today, duct tape comes in different colours, and can even feature fun and colourful patterns. It is still used to seal boxes and to repair things, but people are constantly getting creative with their rolls of duct tape.

NASA astronauts always bring duct tape on their space missions. Motorsports enthusiasts use it to patch up dents in ther vehicles. People use it to fix their shoes, or to try to remove warts with duct tape occlusion therapy. The efficiency of this treatment has not been proven, but many argue that it’s more effective than cryotherapy to remove warts.

People are also using duct tape to create wallets, purses, tote bags, jewelry, phone cases, belts, notebook covers, hammocks, clothing, and even prom dresses!

No matter what you want to repair, to hold in place, or to create, a roll of duct tape and a bit of creativity will certainly do the trick. Just don’t try to seal your heating ducts with it, since it’s not recommended.