Richard Gurley Drew was born June 22, 1899 in St. Paul, Minnesota.
After high school, Richard attended the University of Minnesota as a Mechanical Engineering student and played the banjo at a local “Athletic Orchestra.”
Then in 1920, he saw a job posting in the newspaper for a job with the Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Company. This local manufacturer of sandpaper was looking for a lab technician.
In Richard’s letter of application, he noted his banjo playing, experience driving a tractor, his year as a Mechanical Engineering student, as well as a correspondence course he was taking in machine design. They hired him.
The Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Company had been founded in 1902 to mine corundum, but this failed because the companies mineral holdings contained anorthosite, which held no commercial value.
The company then moved to Duluth, Minnesota in 1905 and began research for the production of sandpaper products.
Over the next eleven years the company had become financially stable before relocating to St. Paul in 1916.
When Richard Drew joined the modest sandpaper company in 1920, it supported its workers to innovate and develop new products.
While delivering trial batches of the companies new Wetordry sandpaper to a local auto body shop for testing, Richard noticed auto body painters having difficulty masking car parts because the paint often peeled off when the tape was removed.
The tape had adhesive along its edges but not in the middle.
Reportedly, on one occasion, a frustrated auto painter growled at Richard Drew, “Take this tape back to those Scotch bosses of yours and tell them to shove it in!”
By “Scotch,” the painter had meant “parsimonious” or “stingy.”
Over the next two years, Richard Drew worked in his lab devising a two-inch-wide tan paper strip of treated crepe paper backed with a light pressure-sensitive adhesive of cabinetmaker’s glue.
Automakers found this tape ideal for masking off areas during auto body painting and immediately began to place orders.
The nickname “Scotch” finally stuck when in 1925, the company began marketing his new tape as Scotch® masking tape.
By 1929, the company went public trading stock over the counter with the new name of 3M, and began making its first moves toward international expansion by forming Durex to conduct business in Europe.
Richard Drew then began working with a new transparent material known as cellophane.
According to 3M, the company was seeking a way to seal food wrap for bakers, grocers, and meat packers.
Richard then developed a nearly invisible adhesive made from oils, resins, and rubber that could be applied on cellophane as a coated backing.
This waterproof, see-through, pressure-sensitive tape was then sent as a trial shipment to a Chicago firm specializing in package printing for bakery products.
The response was so great that on January 31, 1930, Richard Drew’s new tape was put on the market by 3M as Scotch® tape.
Shortly after, heat sealing reduced the original use of the new tape.
However, Americans in a depressed economy discovered they could use the tape to mend a wide variety of things like torn pages of books and documents, broken toys, ripped window shades, even dilapidated currency.
And the rest as they say, is history!
This began 3M’s diversification into all manner of marketplaces and helped the company flourish in spite of the Great Depression.
In 1946, 3M was listed on the New York Stock Exchange and today is a component of the Dow Jones Industrial Average and of the S&P 500.
Richard Drew died December 14, 1980 in Santa Barbara, California.
Now WE know em