Richard Gurley Drew

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Richard Gurley Drew
Born(1899-06-22)June 22, 1899
DiedDecember 14, 1980(1980-12-14) (aged 81)

Richard Gurley Drew (June 22, 1899 – December 14, 1980) was an American inventor who worked for Johnson and Johnson, Permacel Co., and 3M in St. Paul, Minnesota, where he invented masking tape and cellophane tape.[1]


When Drew joined 3M in St. Paul, Minnesota in 1921, it was a modest manufacturer of sandpaper. While testing their new Wetordry sandpaper at auto shops, Drew was intrigued to learn that the two-tone auto paintjobs so popular in the Roaring Twenties were difficult to manage at the border between the two colors. In response, after two years of work in 3M's labs, Drew invented the first masking tape (1925), a two-inch-wide tan paper strip backed with a light, pressure-sensitive adhesive.[2]

The first tape had adhesive along its edges but not in the middle. In its first trial run, it fell off the car and the frustrated auto painter growled at Drew, "take this tape back to those Scotch bosses of yours and tell them to put more adhesive on it!"[3] (By "Scotch," he meant "cheap".) The nickname stuck, both to Drew's improved masking tape, and to his 1930 invention, Scotch Brand cellulose tape.

In 1930 he came up with the world's first transparent cellophane adhesive tape (called sellotape in the UK and Scotch tape in the United States). During the Great Depression, people began using Scotch tape to repair items rather than replace them. This was the beginning of 3M’s diversification into all manner of marketplaces and helped them to flourish in spite of the Great Depression.

Drew died in 1980 in Santa Barbara, California.[4]


  1. ^ "Richard Gurley Drew". National Inventors Hall of Fame. Retrieved 2008-10-22. Born in St. Paul, Minnesota, Drew attended the University of Minnesota before working as a lab technician for 3M, then a sandpaper manufacturer. While delivering trial batches to the local auto body shop for testing, he noticed painters having difficulty masking car parts because the paint often peeled off when the tape was removed. Drew devised a tape of cabinetmaker’s glue and treated crepe paper. Automakers found the tape ideal for masking off areas during auto body painting and immediately began to place orders. The tape was marketed as Scotch masking tape in 1925.
  2. ^ The Man Who Invented Scotch Tape56,847 views (2014-12-30). "The Man Who Invented Scotch Tape". Retrieved 2016-06-21.
  3. ^ 3M Century of Highlights (1902 - 2002) - 3M New Zealand
  4. ^ Saxon, Wolfgang (December 17, 1980). "Richard Drew, Scotch Tape Inventor". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-05-23. Richard G. Drew, a chemical engineer who invented Scotch tape, died Sunday in Santa Barbara, Calif., where he took up residence after his retirement. He was 81 years old.

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