Flashback: Illinois Woman Invents Duct Tape, Tells President
I didn't know any of this until this morning, and I have a gift from my son to thank for giving me the information.
My son Spencer gave me a "365 Days Of Military History" desk calendar for Christmas, and as I was ripping of yesterday's page to look at today's (February 10th, 2023), I was treated to a fascinating story about World War II, an Illinois mom, a game-changing invention, and a letter sent to, and received by, the President of the United States.
Obviously, the game-changing invention is duct tape. Meet the woman who invented it.
Not Only Was Duct Tape Invented By An Illinois Woman, She Came Up With It While Working In Dixon
To be precise, Vesta Stoudt worked at the Green River Ordnance Plant, also known as the Green River Arsenal, which was between Dixon and Amboy. The plant was opened in 1942, and closed in 1945 at the end of WWII.
Workers at the plant, like Vesta, produced items like rifle grenades, fuses, rockets, bombs, naval shells, artillery shells, grenade-launcher shells, and rocket-propelled bazooka ammo.
The whole story begins with Vesta Stoudt packing and inspecting boxes of grenade-launcher shells when she had a lightbulb moment, and thought of a much better way to pack ammunition--a way that would save soldiers' lives.
The Standard Way Of Sealing Up Ammunition Boxes Made Them Difficult To Open, And That Was A Big Problem, Until Vesta Stoudt Came Up With A Much Better Way
According to JNJ.com,
“She noticed that the boxes of ammunition she was packing and inspecting had a flaw,” explains Margaret Gurowitz, Chief Historian, Johnson & Johnson. “They were sealed with paper tape, with a tab to open them. Workers then dipped the entire box in wax to make it waterproof. But the paper tape was very thin, and the tabs often tore off, leaving soldiers frantically trying to open the box while under fire.”
Rather than just continue on doing what she knew could be done much better and effectively, Vesta went to her superiors at the Green River Ordnance Plant and told them about an idea she had for a very strong type of tape, made from waterproof fabric in layers.
But, it appears as though her bosses were not interested in her ideas.
Blown Off By The Higher-Ups, Vesta Did What Any Concerned Mom And Citizen Would Do--She Wrote A Letter To The President, And He Read It
Vesta's letter from Illinois, complete with a diagram explaining what she proposed, somehow found its way to the desk of President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
"We can't let them down by giving them a box of cartridges that takes a minute or two to open, enabling the enemy to take lives that might be saved had the box been taped with strong tape that can be opened in a split second. Please, Mr. President, do something about this at once; not tomorrow or soon, but now."
Spoiler Alert: FDR Loved Vesta's Idea, And Told The War Production Board To Get To Work On It
The War Production Board went to work on it, as ordered by the President, but they took the time to mail Vesta Stoudt to tell her how great her idea really was.