26.04.2016|Articles & Video

How Did Scotch Tape Appear and What Is the Story Behind Its Name?

At present, we can state with certainty that everybody knows what scotch is. By the way, we are not going to speak about a famous Scottish drink, although some people might be disappointed. The topic of our article is adhesive tape, or, as they call it, scotch tape.

The story behind adhesive tape is quite intriguing, so let us start with the idea of its invention.

Who Invented Scotch Tape and How It Happened

In 1923, an American Richard Drew got appointed as a lab technician at Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing, a small company producing sandpaper, later known as 3M corporation. Richard’s main responsibility was sandpaper. Just at that time, the company research department was experimenting with cellophane, aiming to create waterproof cover. In fact, cellophane hit the taste of food manufacturers immediately after its debut. For example, plastic – cellophane – food wrapping for confectionery and bread came into being. Back then, Richard already got interested in the new material and its properties.

 Richard Drew

Noticing Drew’s initiative and diligence, the company assigned him to work in automotive shops and garages to monitor the testing of Wetordry, a new sandpaper brand. One day Richard noticed that the workers faced a certain problem when doing the paint job. In fact, when the car body needed to have a two-tone look – painted in two colors – the line at the border was uneven. Willing to protect the painted section, technicians would use special paper to cover it, but when removed after painting, the paper went off together with the paint. It took a long time to correct defects after that.

Noticing it, Drew promised the technician to invent something that would help get around the difficulties. So sometime later, Richard brought the tape 5 cm wide, which was adhesive along the edges. Workers decided to give it a try; however, after painting the tape cringed. It was because the adhesive layer was only applied on edges, and the middle part of the strip got soaked with paint. Still, Richard was not discouraged and continued to test the tape. It took the engineer almost 5 years to improve adhesive tape. For example, Drew spent the whole year searching for the perfect adhesive to use. During his tests, Richard used so much cellophane that at the end of each working day the waste had to be picked up by a truck.

It was not until 1930 that the first adhesive tape roll was sent to a client in Chicago for testing. The customer’s response was not long in coming. He was excited about the invention and recommended starting the mass production of scotch tape as soon as possible.


The first tape was made from rubber, resins and oils applied on a plastic base. Its advantages were being waterproof and able to be used with a wide temperature range.

William McKnight, who at that time held the position of company president, decided that the tape had to be advertised not as a means of sealing packing, but as a budget material to extend the life of old things. The invention of adhesive tape coincided with the period of the Great Depression in the US and Americans became very frugal and thrifty. People got used to the new product fast and came up with more and more applications for it. In fact, Scotch "repaired" everything – from money, documents, and books to broken toys.

While the company produced and sold only sandpaper in 1920, in 1937 only 37% of sales accounted for paper and the rest 63% accounted for the sales of adhesives, and paper or cellophane adhesive tapes.

After a while, there were many products, whose name included the word “scotch”. Following adhesive tape, many other products were developed, such as masking tape, double-sided tape, marking tape and others.

In 1947, Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Company took a step further and began producing amateur audiotapes, and in a few years, video tapes Scotch.

Fifteen years later, adhesive tape from acetate was developed at 3M. When on the reel, it looked cloudy and amber, becoming transparent and practically invisible when being applied. However, with the advent of such a film, a new problem emerged, which Drew had no time to solve. Later sales manager John Borden solved it.

A reel with integrated blade

The issue was that it was difficult to unglue adhesive tape from the reel, and after being cut off, the tape immediately stuck back, so its end could not be found. It was necessary to fasten the free end to some object. Moreover, scissors were not always at hand, and without them, tape was almost impossible to cut.

Borden spent one and a half year developing a reel with integrated blade, which would hold adhesive tape and the free end of the tape, and at the same time had a small knife to cut off necessary pieces.

How Come the Tape Has This Strange Name?

At least once in your life you must have wondered why the “scotch” name is used for adhesive tape, and why it is so in tune with the famous drink. In fact, like most well-known product names, the tape got its name quite by accident.

When Richard Drew brought the prototype of adhesive tape to the studio, and it cringed after painting, the worker said it was because the adhesive was applied only on edges, that is, in simple words, because of parsimony. He threw a roll of test Scotch tape at Drew and told him to take the tape back to his bosses in Scotland, so that they could put more adhesive. Why Scotland – would you ask? At that time, Scots were known for their frugality and stinginess. In the US, it was common to call Scotch everything that was “greedy” or “stingy” (meaning “Scottish”).

Of course, modern adhesive tape cannot be called Scotch or Scottish any more. It is of sufficient quality and has all necessary characteristics, depending on the field of application.

If you are looking for scotch tape to repair smartphones, tablets or other digital devices, go to our website. All Spares offers a wide range of high-quality adhesive tapes for the repair of equipment.

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