Sunday, June 23, 2024


By Mary Davis

Author Photo

I remember as a child mixing flour and water to form a paste—a basically edible paste—not that I ate any. In kindergarten, other children ate the white paste that came in those tubs with the flat paddle attached to the lid. Several of my classmates encouraged me to try it. Ew! I thought they were crazy for eating it.


That type of paste came a long way from the early beginnings of glues and adhesives.


Just how far back does glue date? Farther than I ever imagined.


The earliest known adhesive was birch-bark-tar, made by burning the bark on a smooth surface. Stone Age people utilized this kind of pitch adhesive in their tool making. They would apply it to the stone piece and the wooden handle to help adhere the two together. Though sticky, plant-based adhesives are often brittle and susceptible to environmental breakdown.


Then came compound adhesives, first discovered in Sibudu, South Africa. This consisted of plant gum mixed with red ochre (natural iron oxide). The ochre created a stronger adhesive that was less likely to deteriorate in wet conditions.

Tree Pitch

In a 6,000-year-old burial site, broken clay pots were discovered that had been repaired with a tree resin. In Babylonian temples, 4000 BC, ivory eyeballs were affixed to statues with a bituminous cement (Bitumen can be a black sticky liquid or a solid—what we in the US would refer to as asphalt.).


A 5,200-year-old man, Ötzi, was discovered in a glacier near the Austria-Italy border. With him were two flint-head arrows and a copper hatchet, both had evidence of an organic glue to connect the wooden handles to the metal or stone parts.

Reconstruction of Ötzi’s hatchet

In approximately 2000 BC, the first literature reference to adhesive shows up. Artifacts from the period 1500-1000 BC include paintings depicting gluing wood furniture and caskets as well as glue found in King Tut’s tomb. The Egyptians created a starch-based paste for securing papyrus to clothing. Animal glues, such as a milk-based glue, were used in bonding and lamination.

Animal-based glue

From 1-1000 AD, the Greeks, Romans, and Mongolians made great contributions in the adhesives arena. Until AD 1500-1700, glues had been nearly abandoned in Europe. Then world-renowned cabinet makers, like Thomas Chippendale and Duncan Phyfe, began using adhesives in their work. The Netherlands established the first commercial glue plant in 1690, using animal hides. While in England, the first glue patent using fish was issued in 1750. In the 1800s, German, Swiss, and US manufactured casein glue (made from milk protein), and in 1876, the first US patent was issued for a casein glue to the Ross brothers.

Casein/Milk-Based Glue Preparation

In 1847, the US issued the first stamps with starch-based glue on them. Modern adhesives had their start in 1830 with the use of natural rubber. With the manufacture of automobiles, the need arose to bond rubber seals with metal, and so cyclized rubber (rubber treated with acids) was developed for this purpose. This led to the creation of rubber cement by 1927.

Rubber-based adhesives have been used as a backing on electrical and cloth-surgical tape since 1845. The birth of the pressure-sensitive tape industry came in 1925. These would be things like cellophane tape, sticky notes, masking tape, and others. Phenolics—used in synthetic plastic making and in coating plywood in the early 1910s—became important in adhesive resins in the 1930s.

Tape-Author Photo

It is said that necessity is the mother of invention. This was true with the First and Second World Wars, which brought advancements in adhesives in the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s.


Cyanoacry (superglue) was discovered by Dr. Harry Coover in 1942 while working for Kodak Research Laboratories on a clear plastic for gunsights. Being too sticky, it was rejected.

Coover in 2010

However, in 1951, Coover and Dr. Fred Joyner rediscovered it while working on a polymer for jet canopies. Joyner spread some ethyl cyanoacry on prisms, and they were stuck together. Coover recognized this was a practical adhesive, so Eastman Kodak released compound #910 for sale to consumers in 1958, then later, packaged as superglue.

Superglue-Author Photo

With ever-evolving technology, new adhesives continue to be created.


One of my favorite glues as a kid was rubber cement. It was fun to roll up the glue that got stuck to my fingers into a rubbery ball. Also, when I was in elementary school, I liked to make “false” fingernails out of Elmer’s glue, using the dip in the center of my ruler to cast the “nails”.


I, for one, am pleased to be stuck with glue.

Elmer's-Author Photo

3rd Place 2023 SELAH Award

A WASP (Women Airforce Service Pilots) flies a secret mission to rescue three soldiers held captive in Cuba.

Margaret “Peggy” Witherspoon is a thirty-four-year-old widow, mother of two daughters, an excellent pilot, and very patriotic. She joins the WASP (Women Airforce Service Pilots). As she performs various tasks like ferry aircraft, transporting cargo, and being an airplane mechanic, she meets and develops feelings for her supervisor Army Air Corp Major Howie Berg. When Peggy learns of U.S. soldiers being held captive in Cuba, she, Major Berg, and two fellow WASPs devise an unsanctioned mission to rescue them. With Cuba being an ally in the war, they must be careful not to ignite an international incident. Order HERE!

MARY DAVIS, bestselling, award-winning novelist, has over thirty titles in both historical and contemporary themes. Her latest release is THE LADY’S MISSION. Her other novels include THE DÉBUTANTE'S SECRET (Quilting Circle Book 4) THE DAMSEL’S INTENT (The Quilting Circle Book 3) is a SELAH Award Winner. Some of her other recent titles include; THE WIDOW'S PLIGHT, THE DAUGHTER'S PREDICAMENT, “Zola’s Cross-Country Adventure” in The MISSAdventure Brides Collection, Prodigal Daughters Amish series, "Holly and Ivy" in A Bouquet of Brides Collection, and "Bygones" in Thimbles and Threads. She is a member of ACFW and active in critique groups.

Mary lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband of thirty-seven years and one cat. She has three adult children and three incredibly adorable grandchildren. Find her online at:
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Bellis, Mary. "The History of Adhesives and Glue." ThoughtCo, Aug. 28, 2020,


  1. Very Interesting. I tried the white paste once as a kindergarten, after all the others were. It was yucky.

  2. Thank you for posting today. Its amazing to read of how inventive people are to accomplish their goals.

    1. By this, I meant all of the inventions through history to make things stick together.