Stevens Says: The Tape That Binds

Unless you work in television, theater, films, stage or music you likely will not know the name, Ross Lowell. Come to think of it, even if you do work in those fields you might not know the name. When he died recently there was little if any mention made of his passing. I confess, if a friend didn’t alert me, I too would have missed the news.

Ross Lowell died at age ninety-two but his legacy will live on with every musician, photographer, stage or set hand for eternity. Lowell, you see, was the inventor of Gaffer Tape.

For the average person that is not big news, I admit, but for those in the aforementioned areas, it ought to be.

Lowell saw a need and filled it guided by a background in cinematography and directing. The story goes that he wanted tape that was strong and heat resistant but that wouldn’t leave marks behind when pulled. He came across Permacel tape, made then by Johnson and Johnson, used the adhesive on that and applied it to a tough fabric backing. That was in the 1950’s.

How it got the Gaffers Tape name is one of those things no one seems to lay claim to. Best guess is the title relates to that given lighting people on stage and movies or television. They are known commonly as gaffers and they used the tape to hide wires or strap them down and for a million other things.

Ross Lowell, then, is the savior of many a television live shot, theater production, music presentation and, for that matter, home project. We’ve all used it and at least now you know who to give proper credit to for it.

Have a good day. I’m Mike Stevens

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