Duck Tape

By Steven Greenberg
Published on: October 20, 2017

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That’s right. Duck tape. Stay with me on this one! So during World War II there was a constant problem of water and moisture getting into ammo cases. The factories would build the bullets, put them in ammo boxes, and they’d start their long journey to Europe and the front. Along the way, they’d be subjected to moisture – whether because of rain or just the conditions of being on a ship crossing the Atlantic.

A gal by the name of Vesta Stoudt (who had two sons in the Navy) came up with the idea of using adhesive tape to seal ammo boxes so they would arrive in the right condition, figuring it just might save some lives. So a division of Johnson & Johnson (who were big in the medical tape arena and had experience using water-repellant duck cloth combined with an adhesive for the purpose of sealing medical wounds) were contracted to come up with a solution. They combined a mesh of layers of duck cloth,a polyethelen base and a rubber-based adhesive back to give it added waterproofing capabilities. The tape was used to seal the ammo boxes. And it worked!

GI’s were so impressed that they started referring to the tape as ‘duck tape’, because it repelled water like the proverbial back of a duck.

After the war, ex-GI’s found that duck tape was perfect for sealing air ducts in homes and buildings. The name ‘duct tape’ started being used in the early 1950’s. Unfortunately, heat was a problem, as heating ducts would melt the adhesive and cause it to come loose or over time cause the tape to get brittle.  Finally, metal oxide was integrated into the production of the tape, it was colored gray to match heating and cooling ducts, and by 1960 a St. Louis, Missouri, HVAC company, Albert Arno, Inc., trademarked the name “Ductape” for their “flame-resistant” duct tape, capable of holding together at 350–400° F. The rest, as they say, is history. Well, almost.

Today, duct tape is actually not recommended for wrapping and sealing ventilation ducts. Today’s duct tape has been supplanted with more modern and advanced ‘duct-type’ tapes that can withstand the rigors of modern HVAC systems.

Another tidbit you’ll find interesting – in the early days of NASA they would stash a roll of duct tape onboard the Gemini and Apollo missions. And if you remember the Apollo 13 movie, where the crippled command module had to have its CO2 scrubbers modified, using parts from the lunar module (which were round) and the command module (which were square) – well, they ended up using duct tape to seal the whole thing and make it work in order to get the crew safely back to earth.

When all else fails, use duct tape!

Steven Greenberg

Steven Greenberg

Steven is the author of Gadget Nation and can be seen every month on NBC’s Today Show. He appears routinely on The Dr. Oz Show and on the nationally syndicated news/talk TV show Eye Opener. Follow Steven on Twitter @SteveTV or Facebook at

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