Anyone who's ever needed to salvage a torn dollar bill can thank a persistent engineering school dropout.
Richard G. Drew was an engineer at 3M when he was asked by a client to come up with a way to seal insulation batts, so they could be installed in railway refrigerator cars, which were used to transport groceries.
A tape had to be water-proof to hold the batts together and masking tape, which Drew had invented four years earlier, didn’t do the trick. Drew quickly got to work and began experimenting with cellophane, a moisture-proof packaging material that the Dupont Company had recently developed.
Cellophane worked as a backing, but evenly applying an adhesive to it was difficult. The cellophane curled when heated and split or broke as it was being coated. And as Drew started devising ways to fix this glitch, the client, Flaxilum, grew impatient and said they were no longer interested.
Still, Drew felt there was a need for moisture-proof tape and kept at it. After an agonizing year in which test after test resulted in stacks upon stacks of spoiled tape piled several feet high, the inventor eventually perfected a primer that allowed the adhesive to be applied evenly. This breakthrough, along with better machines, made it possible for Drew and his research team to finally crank out their first roll of cellophane tape on Sept. 8, 1930.
Today, there is enough Scotch Tape sold each year to circle the Earth 165 times. All because one man had an idea — and stuck to it.