Duct tape has adhered itself so well to American culture that it’s become much more than a roll of tape. It’s an enduring symbol of all in this world that is functional.
So how did this sticky wonder come about? It was World War II and there was a need for a strong, flexible, durable, waterproof tape that could seal canisters, repair cracked windows, repair trucks and help the war effort in general. Permacell, a division of the Johnson and Johnson Company, stepped up to this challenge.
Using medical tape as a base, they applied two new technologies. Polycoat adhesives gave the tape its unshakable stick and polyethylene coating allowed them to laminate the tape to a cloth backing, making it extremely strong and flexible. The resulting tape was nicknamed “Duck Tape” for its ability to repel water, while ripping easily into strips for fast convenient use.
After the war the tape was put to the more civilian use of holding ducts together. So the product changed from a nameless army green tape to the familiar gray duct tape.
Thirty years later, Jack Kahl, former CEO of Manco, Inc., changed the name of the product to Duck Tape® and put ‘Manco T. Duck’ on the Duck Tape® logo, giving personality to a commodity product. Manco, Inc. also began to shrink-wrap and label the product, making it easier to stack for retailers, and easier to distinguish different grades for customers.
Now, over 50 years after its invention, Duck® tape is sold in more than 20 colors and is touted by its followers for having a nearly endless amount of uses.