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January 31 is Scotch Tape Day

Today is Scotch Tape Day and celebrates the invention of cellophane tape in 1930. The story begins in the early 1920s at Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing, now known as 3M, which made only sandpaper at the time. Richard Gurley Drew, a banjo-playing college dropout hired as a research assistant, soon changed the course of the company’s history.

scotch tape dayWhile delivering sandpaper samples to an auto body shop, Drew noticed painters’ frustration with the tape they used to mask car parts. Overly sticky, it ripped off bits of paint when removed, ruining the detail and forcing them to start over. He made it his goal to find a solution to their problem.

For the next few years, Drew experimented until he found the perfect combination of treated crêpe paper, cabinetmaker’s glue and glycerin. It adhered well yet stripped off easily without taking paint with it when removed. Automakers immediately recognized its value and began placing orders for it. The tape was marketed as Scotch Masking Tape in 1925.

Drew rose quickly through the ranks.  In 1929, he struck upon the idea of using DuPont’s recently invented cellophane to make transparent tape. Cellophane was a moisture-proof material used to wrap and present baked goods and grocery items. Its only drawback was the difficulty of sealing packages securely and attractively. Drew hoped to develop tape that would blend with the wrap.

The machinery used to apply adhesive to masking tape was ill-equipped to deal with cellophane, which curled and ripped. The amber glue used on masking tape looked terrible on a transparent surface. Drew and his team had to design new machines and a new clear adhesive made from a combination of oil, rubber and resins.

scotch tape day

The resulting Scotch Cellulose Tape was introduced in 1930. By that time, DuPont had already developed a new type of cellophane that could be sealed with heat, negating the need for tape. Despite the fact that Drew’s invention missed its target market and debuted during the Great Depression, the adhesive tape sold well to thrifty customers.

In fact, the desperate times may have spelled success for Scotch tape when other products would have failed. Even the racial slur the name is supposedly based on may have helped boost its sales. Scottish people were considered stingy. It was an ethnic stereotype that served 3M well: when money is scarce, stinginess is a virtue and a “cheap” product is a smart buy.

3M later promoted the legend with ads featuring “Scotty McTape,” a cartoon mascot who repeated the story that in 1925, auto painters told a 3M rep (presumably Drew) to go back to his “Scotch” bosses and tell them to put adhesive all over the tape. That’s unlikely since 3M didn’t make tape at the time and, in any case, the problem for the painters was that the adhesive was too strong.scotch tape day

Soon Scotty McTape was declared a member of Clan Wallace and began wearing its red tartan (and Wallace Hunting green plaid.) In the early 1970s, it was decided that McTape was no longer an effective marketing tool and the character was retired. The casual racism of Scotch tape’s name has been forgotten. Dispensers decorated in plaid are purchased every day with no awareness of their association with the clan of William Wallace, also known as Braveheart.

Richard Drew died in 1980 and was posthumously inducted into the Inventors Hall of Fame for U.S. patent number 1,760,820. While working for a sandpaper manufacturer, he invented a tool that has become an essential part of our lives. The next time you reach for adhesive tape, at home or the office, take a moment to imagine life without it. We can’t but, thanks to Mr. Drew, we don’t have to.

Happy Scotch Tape Day!

Copyright © 2017 Worldwide Weird Holidays

Bubble Wrap Appreciation Day

bubble wrap appreciation dayBubble Wrap Appreciation Day, also known as BWAD, is celebrated on the last Monday in January. It was created in 2001 by Jim Webster of Spirit 95.1 FM in Bloomington, IN. In the past, the radio station has sponsored sports, sculpture and fashion design contests.

Sealed Air Corporation’s Bubble Wrap Competition for Young Inventors awarded top honors in 2010 to 13-year-old. Matthew Huber for his invention of Petri bubbles, a cheap and easy alternative to Petri dishes for use after disasters like the earthquake in Haiti.

In 2014, Harvard University chemists published a paper stating that “the gas-filled compartments in the packing material commonly called ‘bubble wrap’ can be repurposed in resource-limited regions as containers to store liquid samples, and to perform bioanalyses.” Huber is college-age now, guys. Give him a call.

bubble wrap appreciation day

The invention of Bubble Wrap began as a failed experiment and became a triumph of the imagination. In 1957, engineers Marc Chavannes and Al Fielding created three-dimensional wallpaper by trapping air between two shower curtains. (Imagine how our interiors might look had their plan succeeded.)

After an unsuccessful effort to repurpose it as greenhouse insulation, Chavannes and Fielding realized that their terrible wallpaper would make excellent packaging material. At that time, the paper products used for packaging didn’t cushion heavy or delicate objects.

They raised $9,000 to fund a developmental production line and incorporated Sealed Air Corporation in 1960. IBM was their first customer, using Bubble Wrap to protect its 1401 business computer’s fragile vacuum tubes during shipping. Customers all over the world have entrusted it with their valuables ever since.

The company continues to innovate, improving its products and creating new ones. In 2015, Sealed
Air announced the creation of NewAir I.B., designed to ship flat, reducing bulk and lowering transportation costs. One truckload is equivalent to 40 truckloads of traditional Bubble Wrap. Customers will then inflate sheets as needed with a custom air pump.

The new stuff will look like traditional Bubble Wrap but don’t be fooled: it will not pop, no matter how hard you press, poke, punch, squeeze, sit or stomp on it. We’re going to miss that pleasantly startling noise. While we can’t replicate the sensation, we can help keep the memory alive with this:

Happy Bubble Wrap Appreciation Day!

January 29 is Curmudgeons Day

Today is Curmudgeons Day, which celebrates the birth, in 1880, of comedian, writer, drinker and self-professed curmudgeon W.C. Fields.

curmudgeons dayWilliam Claude Dukenfield grew up in Philadelphia, PA, a city that later became the butt of many of his jokes. While this is true, many other aspects of his origin story are difficult to substantiate.

He adopted the name W.C. Fields as a vaudevillian in 1898 and took delight in recounting a tragic personal history. Fields allegedly ran away from home after his alcoholic father beat him over the head with a shovel, ending up sleeping in a hole in the ground, stealing food and clothing to survive, and was often caught and thrown in jail.

At thirteen, he supposedly got a job as a juggler on a pier in Atlantic City, NJ. When business was slow, he would feign drowning at the behest of his employers, who believed the fake rescue they then staged would draw in customers.

Like the best lies, his story had elements of truth. He did sometimes run away from his short-tempered father, but only as far as his grandmother’s house. He was developing a juggling act. But at age seventeen, he was living at home and performing it at church and local theaters.

In actuality, Fields did begin his career in vaudeville and took his stage name in 1898. (He specialized in pretending he’d lost the items he was juggling.) But his family supported him and saw him off on his first tour.

By the early 1900s, he was a headliner in the U.S. and Europe and was often referred to as the world’s best juggler. He toured Australia and South Africa in 1903. By 1904, Fields had become so successful that he bought his father a summer home and enabled him to retire. That’s a heck of a way to repay the man who hit your head with a shovel.

He performed at Buckingham Palace and took the stage at the Folies Bergère when Charlie Chaplin was on the docket. Fields wrote and starred in his first film, Pool Sharks, in 1915. He appeared in the Ziegfeld Follies from 1915 through 1921.

In 1923, he made his Broadway debut in the musical “Poppy,” then reprised the role two years later in D.W. Griffith’s screen adaptation renamed Sally of the Sawdust. By 1944, Fields had made 41 films, including The Bank Dick, My Little Chickadee and Tillie and Gus.

Fields was a staunch advocate of drink and had one in his hand much of the time. (A favorite line: “I certainly do not drink all the time. I have to sleep, you know.”) It should come as no surprise that wear-and-tear on his body caused by alcohol finally did him in.

In the early months of 1945, Fields was admitted to Las Encinas Sanatorium in Pasadena, CA. He never left, dying of a gastric hemorrhage almost two years later, on December 25, 1946—the holiday that Fields, an atheist, said he most despised.

He might have gotten a kick out of the fact that he has a medical condition named after him. Rhinophyma, a form of rosacea that causes the nasal tip to redden and become bulbous, is sometimes referred to as “W.C. Fields syndrome” or “whiskey nose.”

He would certainly be a fan of Curmudgeons Day. He said so many curmudgeonly things in his life, movie scripts, and in ad libs during filming that a Google search for “W.C. Fields quotes” returned 633,000 results. We recommend you make a snack before you dive in. You’re going to be online for a while. Here are a few to whet your appetite:

“Start every day off with a smile and get it over with.”

“If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. Then give up. No use being a damned fool about it.”

“I am free of all prejudices. I hate everyone equally.”

“Children should neither be seen nor heard from, ever again.”

“I never vote for anyone. I always vote against.”

“I do if they’re properly cooked.” — (when asked if he liked children)

One frustrating element of Curmudgeons Day is its stubborn resistance to punctuation. Should we read it as a mere grammatical error? Is it written this way by a curmudgeon to irritate other curmudgeons (and the odd English major?) We’ll let you decide.

Happy Curmudgeons Day!

Copyright © 2017 Worldwide Weird Holidays

January 28 is National Kazoo Day

Today is National Kazoo Day when kazoo players celebrate the long history of the instrument in America.

national kazoo dayNo one knows the exact date of the kazoo’s invention. A popular story holds that it was designed in the 1840s by an African-American man named Alabama Vest.

German clockmaker Thaddeus Von Clegg constructed a prototype which Vest introduced at the 1852 Georgia State Fair as the “Down-South Submarine.”

The closest we can get to verifying that account is to confirm that a state fair did occur in Macon, Georgia in 1852.

The modern metal kazoo was patented by George D. Smith of Buffalo, New York, on May 27, 1902.

We don’t know why it wasn’t mass-produced until a dozen years later. The factory, which became known as the Original Kazoo Company, now operates a museum open to kazoo fans who are willing to make the pilgrimage to Eden, New York.

Down south? The Kazoo Museum in Beaufort, South Carolina, opened in 2007, has a “collection of nearly two-hundred unique kazoo-related items.” It’s located in a kazoo factory on 12 John Galt Road, an address sure to delight Ayn Rand fans.

Budding kazooists should keep in mind that the kazoo is a membranophone, which modifies the player’s voice via a vibrating membrane. Players must hum, not blow, into the kazoo, varying pitch and volume to produce different sounds.

Because no adnational kazoo dayvanced musical training is required, a player has the potential to become a virtuoso almost immediately. That fact may also be what keeps the kazoo from getting the respect it deserves.

Kazoo lovers across America are trying to change that with the Keep America Humming Campaign to Make the Kazoo the National Instrument. Campaign founder Barbara Stewart says:

“We have a national bird, a national song, and a national debt. Why not kazoo as a national instrument?” Why not?

Happy National Kazoo Day!

Copyright © 2017 Worldwide Weird Holidays