January 04, 2021

When we were driving home on Sunday, I noticed a car in front of us that had used cellophane tape to close the trunk lid.  While I was not sure, I assumed they had been in a rear-ender and popped the trunk latch, so it no longer worked.  I was amazed at how extensively they had tapped the lid shut but wondered about their choice of tape.  Mostly when you see parts taped on a car, they use some sort of duct tape.  I guess they thought this was the tape they had and if you use enough it might work.  I have found that it will but only for a period.

The adhesive duct tape we know today appeared in World War II.  A factory worker named Vesta Stoudt was packaging ammunition and sealed each box with tape and wax to make them waterproof.  When the worker saw soldiers struggling to open the boxes, she came up with an idea to seal the boxes with a strong, cloth-based, waterproof tape.  Stout wrote a letter to FDR about her solution and a few weeks later, received word from the War Production Board that Johnson and Johnson would be manufacturing the tape.  The tape became a military sensation as it was durable and easy to apply and remove by hand.  Stoudt received a letter from President Roosevelt and earned the Chicago Tribune’s War Worker Award for her idea and her persistence (read, no patent nor money).

After the war ended, duct tape turned up in hardware stores to help Americans with domestic household repairs.  The tape was originally called ‘duck’ tape because of its water-resistant qualities.   It was made from a cotton duck fabric and it repelled water like a duck’s back.   The cotton duck is a strong fabric made from cotton, where the threads make a crisscross pattern.  This was known for being a strong material and was used to protect power cables and electrical conductors from corrosion.  It quickly became a useful tool for wrapping air ducts, which led to its other name, duct tape.  Webster’s officially defines duct tape as “a wide cloth adhesive tape originally designed for sealing joints in heating or air-conditioning ducts.”  Modern duct tape is manufactured by a number companies and employs a variety of materials.  Because of its versatility, duct tape has even made the ride into space.

Thoughts:  I mentioned previously how embarrassed my son Alex was of the vehicle I drove when he was in grade school.  The car had a vinal top that had separated from the glue and seal that originally held it to the roof.  It had been repaired with duct tape, but the tape had aged and lost its adhesion.  That caused the patch to give way and the vinal (and tape) would flap in the wind no matter how many times I fixed it.  Many DIY fixes I use are like this car.  They work for a while and then give way.  Many of the fixes we used to address racism have taken the same approach.  Rather than resolve the problems, we merely add a patch.  As I learned, even duct tape fails.  Do the work.  Change is coming and it starts with you.

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