Duct Tape: Holding the World Together for 70 Years

By: Tina Shaffer

Ever wonder where the original idea for duct tape came from? A mom, of course! In 1943, Navy mom Vesta Stoudt was working in a factory in Illinois where ammunition cases were sealed with paper tape and melted wax. As she inspected and packaged the cases, she worried that the ammunition boxes were too hard to open on the battlefield and could put soldiers’ lives at risk. She came up with and tested an idea for a cloth-based, waterproof tape that would make it easier for World War II soldiers. Though her supervisors thought it was a good idea, she couldn’t get them to implement it. So what did the Navy mom do? She wrote a letter to President Franklin D. Roosevelt outlining the issue and a proposal for how to fix it with a new type of tape. Roosevelt sent Vesta’s letter to the War Production Board in Washington, D.C., and within a few weeks, she was notified that her recommendation for a new tape had been approved.

Johnson & Johnson was given the task of creating the new tape. Because it was made from duck cloth, soldiers nicknamed it “duck tape.” The new adhesive tape was quickly adapted to repair just about anything in a pinch, including tents and military vehicles. Today, it’s used for everything from creative crafts and costumes to spaceflight, including a repair job that helped save Apollo 13. It’s literally the ultimate DIY product. So the next time you grab that roll of duct tape, remember… a little creativity, perseverance and a good idea can go a long way.