Duct tape was first invented by the Johnson and Johnson Company for the American military during World War II to help keep moisture out of ammunition cases. The original duct tape was waterproof, military green in color and it was not available to the public. It did not take American soldiers long to realize that this multi-purpose tape was good for fixing their tents, their jeep seats, rips in their equipment bags and just about any other tear or rip they would experience. Because of its waterproof characteristic the solders started to call it "duck" tape. When the war ended, Johnson and Johnson started to sell the tape to the public and the soldiers that had used it in the war were buying it and using it. The primary use in the private sector for duct tape in the 1950s was to repair or seal the duct work for a home's heating and cooling system. Johnson and Johnson changed the tape to the familiar chrome silver color to match the duct work, and then named it duct tape.
Duct tape is made up of three layers of different materials that combine to make a durable and waterproof tape. It starts with the bottom adhesive layer that is made up of a very strong grade rubber-based adhesive material. The second layer is a web work of cloth fabric that is woven to distribute stress and give duct tape its durability. The top layer is a soft plastic substance that gives duct tape its protective and waterproof cover.
The convenience of duct tape lies in its design. It was created to be easily torn by hand by soldiers in the field for quick application. The durability of duct tape is also a significant feature--one source even claims that it has the strength to lift a one-ton car when a piece of duct tape is doubled over and the adhesive sides are stuck together.
When duct tape was first introduced into the American market in the late 1940s it was a problem for retailers because the tape was so sticky that the rolls would stick together and be very difficult to separate. In the early 1970s the Manco Company began selling duct tape in shrink wrapped plastic and helped to widen the ability of retailers to sell the product.
Duct tape has become a very popular household and industrial product. Each year there is enough duct tape sold in the United States to wrap around the equator of the Earth at least 12 times. Yet as popular as duct tape is in the United States, it is still primarily an American product, as the rest of the world has not yet caught on to the convenience of duct tape.