HAPPY NATIONAL CELLOPHANE TAPE DAY! Join us as we celebrate the sticky stuff that’s keeping your cracked window together. Today we’re celebrating with friend, comedian, art educator and craft supplies expert Elizabeth Norman (Twitter: @lizzynormal / Instagram: lizzynormal / elizabethnorman.net)! Let’s party!

Show Notes

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History + fun facts about the holiday

  • First detection of National Cellophane Tape Day was 5/27/2015 according to nationalwhatdayisit.com, though we encountered it on National Day Calendar.com
  • Otherwise known as Scotch Tape, which is a brand name for pressure-sensitive tapes manufactured by 3M as part of the company’s Scotch brand
    • 3M, formerly Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Company, is an American multinational conglomerate corporation operating in the fields of industry, worker safety, health care, and consumer goods
      • They were #97 in the 2018 Fortune 500 list of largest US corporations
      • In 1921, they hired 3 men to oversee the company’s product innovation, one of whom was Richard “Dick” Gurley Drew
    • Dick worked into his early 20s as a banjo player, touring with local bands until he could pay for a mechanical engineering degree at the University of Minnesota, but he dropped out 18 months later. He was hired by 3M at 22 to test various types of sandpaper
    • The precursor to Scotch tape was developed in the 1920s in St. Paul, Minnesota, by Dick to seal a then-new transparent material known as cellophane
      • Quick FYI: Cellophane is a bioplastic, as it “is made from processed cellulose, just like paper!”–daysoftheyear.com
        • Cellulose is “an insoluble substance which is the main constituent of plant cell walls and of vegetable fibers such as cotton. It is a polysaccharide consisting of chains of glucose monomers”
    • The patent for the first tape was published on May 27, 1930, which is why this is Cellophane Tape Day
    • When trying to pedal his sandpaper wares to auto shops, Dick was intrigued to learn that the two-tone auto paint jobs so popular in the Roaring Twenties were difficult to manage at the border between the two colors. The workers had to mask parts of each car with butcher paper and newspapers, then secure them with homemade glues and surgical tape. When removing the tape, chips of paint would come off with it, which lead to cycles of taping and repainting. In response, Drew fucked off with his sandpaper and instead invented the first masking tape.
    • At the time, his supervisor told him to stop his efforts with the tape because he was slacking on his sandpaper duties. Drew ended up buying the necessary equipment for mass production of the tape on his own, in increments of $99, then constructed the machine himself.
    • The use of the term “Scotch” was a pejorative meaning “stingy” in the 20s and 30s, as Scottish people were considered cheap and miserly
    • Legend has it that the brand name Scotch came about around 1925 while Drew was testing the masking tape, which had adhesive along its edges but not in the middle. In its first trial run, it fell off the car. The body shop painter became frustrated with the sample masking tape and exclaimed, “Take this tape back to those Scotch bosses of yours and tell them to put more adhesive on it!” The name was then applied to the entire line of 3M tapes
      • The best way to deal with any insult is just to fucking lean into it as hard as you can
      • It’s more likely that 3M chose the name “Scotch” to give the consumer the impression that the product was a thrifty purchase, which was clever marketing during a time when money was scarce.
    • During the Great Depression, people began using Scotch tape to repair items rather than replace them (relatable!), such as books, upholstery, curtains, sheet music, clothing, fingernails, cracked eggs, and cracked ceiling plasterThis was the beginning of 3M’s diversification into all manner of marketplaces and helped them to flourish in spite of the Great Depression
    • Scotty McTape (see below for photo), a kilt-wearing cartoon boy, was the brand’s mascot for 2 decades, first appearing in 1944
    • The familiar tartan design was introduced in 1945, which was inspired by the Clan Wallace of Braveheart fame (pre-Mel Gibson)
    • Magic Tape is a brand within the Scotch Tape family. It was invented and introduced in 1961 as the original matte finish tape. It appears frosty on the roll, yet it’s invisible on the paper, making it popular for gift-wrapping
      • It can be written on with pen, pencil, or marker;
      • Comes in permanent and removable varieties;
      • And resists drying out and yellowing
    • According to madehow.com, the development of synthetic resins and compounds after WWII made possible great refinements of adhesive technology. Now, thankfully, tape no longer yellows or oozes adhesive as it ages. There are now more than 400 varieties of pressure sensitive tapes manufactured, including electrical tape, packaging tape, band aids, transparent tape, and labels.
    • Drew’s persistence in creating tape also resulted in the creation of the 3M philosophy that when an employee is the right person for a project, and they show absolute dedication to solving a problem, leave them alone.
  • It’s estimated that more than 90% of American homes and businesses employ masking tape for a variety of uses
  • In 1953, Soviet scientists showed that triboluminescence caused by peeling a roll of an unidentified Scotch brand tape in a vacuum can produce X-rays
    • Triboluminescence is an optical phenomenon in which light is generated through the breaking of chemical bonds in a material when it’s pulled apart, ripped, scratched, crushed, or rubbed
      • It’s not fully understood, but appears to be caused by the separation and reunification of electrical charges. In the case of tape, the unrolling creates electrostatic charges, and electrons jump across the gap between the tape and roll, producing x-rays.
      • In the presence of air, the electrons are slower and don’t produce x-rays, but you can notice a faint glow by unrolling tape in a completely dark room
      • Photo in the show notes
    • In 2008, American scientists performed an experiment unrolling tape in a vacuum that showed the rays can be strong enough to leave an X-ray image of a finger on photographic paper
      • According to scientificamerican.com, this discovery could lead to cheap, portable, and possibly even muscle-powered radiography machines

Activities to celebrate

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  • National Day Calendar recommends observing this holiday by using #CellophaneTapeDay to post on social media
  • From daysoftheyear.com, you can use tape to tape someone’s eyebrows up or seal an important document, or just generally take the “chance to come up with something new and creative for this amazing adhesive!”
  • Checkiday.com gives this list of ideas:
    • Make a tape ball
    • Remove hair, fur, and lint from clothing and upholstery
    • Clean your keyboard
    • Repair frayed shoelace ends
    • Temporarily repair things, such as broken glasses
    • Use it to do your nails
    • Pick up tiny pieces of broken glass
    • Put it over labels to keep them from smudging
    • Use it to wrap a gift
  • Perform a test for lice! According to tapeauthority.com, this is done by placing the tape on the skin of an animal, then whatever sticks to the tape can be examined under a microscope
    • Or perform a test for pinworms! Pinworms are the most common worm infection in America. One of the ways to diagnose pinworm is by using the cellophane or scotch tape test. I’ll let you use your imagination on the application of the tape in order to collect samples


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Good ol’ Scotty McTape

1920s 2-tone paint job


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