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How A Letter From A Worried 1940s Mom To FDR Led To The Invention Of Duct Tape

During World War II, Vesta Staudt, a mother and factory worker, came up with a brilliant idea that has remained a cultural icon to this day

Andrew Martin
4 min readNov 3, 2023

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A popular old saying is that necessity is the mother of invention. It can also be said that concerned mothers are the origins of innovation. Such was the case for Vesta Staudt, a mother of two sons serving in the Navy during World War II, who became concerned over something she saw during her efforts in supporting the war effort. A suggestion she sent to U.S. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt was so impactful that it ended up being the origins for the extremely popular duct tape.

The silver, ultra sticky and strong duct tape, which is coated with polyethylene, is one of the most recognizable products in the world. Touted as being capable of doing everything from sealing a box to holding a rickety car together, it is truly a staple in everyday life.

Given the success and utility of duct tape, one might think that it was spawned by scientists. To the contrary, a mother working in a war factory saw what she saw as a need. Not content to be quiet, she shared her idea with FDR and quickly saw it come to fruition — — and an everlasting legacy.

In the 1940s, Staudt found herself working at the Green River Ordnance Plant in Amboy, Illinois, inspecting and packing cartridges used to launch rifle grenades for soldiers. Her two sons (out of eight children) were serving overseas, and in between worrying for their safety, she found her employment as a way to do her part State-side.

The cartridges Staudt packed every day were sealed with thin paper tape, but this proved to be inadequate in the heat of battle. Soldiers struggled to open the boxes to grab new bullets as the flimsy tabs tore off, endangering lives in the process. They also were only sometimes waterproof. Fueled by her concern for her sons and their fellow servicemen, she came up with her own solution: strong, cloth-based waterproof tape to seal the boxes securely.

Undeterred by initial resistance to her idea, Staudt took matters into her own hands and wrote a heartfelt letter dated…

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Andrew Martin

Dabbler in history, investing & writing. Master’s degree in baseball history. Passionate about history, diversity, culture, sports, investing and crypto.