The History of Adhesives and Glue

Adhesives and Glue - What Sticks?

Carpenter Glueing Wood
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Archeologists excavating burial sites from 4000 BC have discovered clay pots repaired with glue made from tree sap. We know that the ancient Greeks developed adhesives for use in carpentry, and created recipes for glue that included the following items as ingredients: egg whites, blood, bones, milk, cheese, vegetables, and grains. Tar and beeswax were used by the Romans for glue.

Around 1750, the first glue or adhesive patent was issued in Britain. The glue was made from fish. Patents were then rapidly issued for adhesives using natural rubber, animal bones, fish, starch, milk protein or casein.

Superglue - Synthetic Glue

Superglue or Krazy Glue is a substance called cyanoacrylate that was discovered by Dr. Harry Coover while working for Kodak Research Laboratories to develop an optically clear plastic for gunsights in 1942. Coover rejected cyanoacrylate because it was too sticky.

In 1951, cyanoacrylate was rediscovered by Coover and Dr. Fred Joyner. Coover was now supervising research at the Eastman Company in Tennessee. Coover and Joyner were researching a heat-resistant acrylate polymer for jet canopies when Joyner spread a film of ethyl cyanoacrylate between refractometer prisms and discovered that the prisms were glued together.

Coover finally realized that cyanoacrylate was a useful product and in 1958 the Eastman compound #910 was marketed and later packaged as superglue.

Hot Glue - Thermoplastic Glue

Hot glue or hot melt adhesives are thermoplastics that are applied hot (often using glue guns) and then harden as they cool. Hot glue and glue guns are commonly used for arts and crafts because of the wide range of materials that hot glue can stick together.

Procter & Gamble chemical and packaging engineer, Paul Cope invented thermoplastic glue around 1940 as an improvement to water-based adhesives that were failing in humid climates.

This to That

A nifty site that tells you what to use to glue anything to anything else. Read the trivia section for historical information. According to the “This to That” website, the famous cow used as the trademark on all Elmer’s glue products is actually named Elsie, and she is the spouse of Elmer, the bull (male cow) who the company is named after.

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Bellis, Mary. "The History of Adhesives and Glue." ThoughtCo, Aug. 28, 2020, Bellis, Mary. (2020, August 28). The History of Adhesives and Glue. Retrieved from Bellis, Mary. "The History of Adhesives and Glue." ThoughtCo. (accessed June 8, 2023).