Tuesday, December 16, 2014

A Racist Mechanic!

At this point in the holiday season, many of you have surely wrapped a few packages. Have you ever stopped to wonder about the tape you use to seal your wrapping paper together? More specifically... why is it called "Scotch" tape?

You're about to find out!

An antique roll of Scotch Tape in a metal container.

Scotch tape has become a generic name for transparent sticky tape, even though it is also a brand name. Scotch Tape, as a brand, originates with the world famous 3M Corporation. An employee by the name of Richard Drew invented cellophane tape, as it was known then. While testing the tape for use in an automobile body shop in 1925, the "Scotch" name miraculously came about. A paint technician / mechanic using the cellophane tape on an auto repair project was displeased with the amount of adhesive on the tape; it just was not sticky enough. In a fit of anger, he passed the tape back to Mr. Drew and exclaimed "Take this tape back to those Scotch bosses of yours and tell them to put more adhesive on it!" This somewhat racist rant was related to William McKnight, who was a first generation American to hard-working Scottish immigrants. McKnight was a decent man whom worked his way up through the 3M company from assistant bookkeeper to President. The "Scotch" connotation stuck with Drew, so he christened his invention as Scotch Tape and sent it to retail.

And yes... Drew added more adhesive to the tape.

Mr. Richard Drew - Image Courtesy of the 3M Corporation

Scotch Tape has been in production and available at retail for nearly a hundred years. The name has become so synonymous with tape that it has become the generic term for it (much like thermos or aspirin). Without Scotch Tape, we'd have a much harder time wrapping our holiday gifts.

The slightly odd moral of the story? The next time you find yourself reaching for a piece of Scotch Tape, remember to thank a racist car mechanic!

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