Keeping History Together: Everything You Need to Know About the Invention of Glues

You probably use them every so often. Nevertheless, glues have a rich and sticky history that dates back to the first men.
Donovan Alexander

Glues are the underdogs of our lives. You may not think about them that much. However, when you need them the most, to repair a broken family heirloom, or add new life to a siblings toy, glue is there to save the day. But, how much do you know about glue and its long diverse history?


There are 5 types of glues used every day across homes and in various industries, ranging from the arts to commercial production. However what if we told you that glue’s history goes all the way back to prehistoric times, utilized for the tools that helped your ancestors survive everyday?  

Sticky FactsPrehistoric hunters used natural glue to bind stone arrowheads or ax stones to wood.

In short, glue is an adhesive substance used for sticking objects or materials together. Adhesives themselves have been used for 200,000 years, creating these substances by utilizing common things found within nature.


Today you are going to dive into the sticky history of glues and gain insight into one of the substances that have kept history together for years.

Sticky Facts: The first written record of glue comes from Ancient Egypt. One of the earliest examples are hieroglyphs that shown casket of Pharaoh Tutankhamun that was glued together with a compound made from animals.

Glues Date Back to Some of the Earliest Men

Keeping History Together: Everything You Need to Know About the Invention of Glues
Animal Glue. Source: Simon Eugster/Wikipedia 

From early men to the bronze age, adhesives or glues have played an integral role in helping humanity create products, inventions, tools and weapons that in turn preserved their mankind. However, glues uses do not even end there and found themselves becoming a crucial component of important early religious ceremonies.

Researchers found civilizations using glue for ceremonial and decoration items from six thousand years ago. Axes and arrows were also found to have been held together using glues as far back as 5,200 years ago.

Glues Were Part of Everyday Life in the Roman Empire

Glues were used by the Egyptians for not just woodwork and weapons but to also piece together tools for record keeping and even the creation of papyrus, with glue being discovered in the tombs of Egyptian pharaohs dating back to 2,500 years ago

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The use of glues was commonplace during the Greek and Roman empires. used to tackle daily tasks and even found popularity in large construction projects. Roman mosaic floors and tiled walls were glued with substances that are still intact and strong today.

Glues from this time period were created from animal hides, connective tissue, and hooves. These parts were slowly cooked down to a jelly-like substance.

This substance would then be dried and stored as a powder. If you needed to use it, just add water and tackle your project. However, it was not until the 20th century where glues experienced their own revolution.

Glue Innovation Began in WWI

War tends to spawn innovation across multiple industries and the world of glues was no exception. During the first World War new variations of glues were invented; milk glues and nitrocellulose glues that were flammable. Nevertheless glues truly bloomed in the 1930s parallels the rise of modern chemistry and industry.

Industrial glues were born during this time period. Using their insights gained from the “plastic revolution”, scientists were able to create synthetic resin glues.

These next-gen adhesives were used throughout  World War II utilizing newly discovered compounds like neoprenes, epoxies, and acrylonitriles. Glues played an important role in creating temporary repairs to objects in and out of the battlefield.

Modern Super Glue Was Discovered by Accident

However, the modern age of the “superglue” that you may have used around your house would not have been possible without its accidental discovery made by Harry Coover Jr.

Sticky FactsThe five basic types of glues are solvent glues, water-based glues, two-part glues, animal glues and Cyanoacrylate glues (super glues).

In 1942 Coover and his team at Eastman Kodak were looking for ways to make clear plastic gun sights for the war. They were focusing their attention on cyanoacrylates. These unique materials were known for their extremely sticky properties used on large cuts and wounds, with most researchers rejecting the material as too sticky for use.

Sticky FactsOne square inch of super glue can hold around one ton.

Keeping History Together: Everything You Need to Know About the Invention of Glues
Source: Wikipedia 

Coover realized the potential of these materials beyond war and by the 1950s he had gone to release the first consumer-ready “superglue” to the public. This changed the landscape of glues and impacted a lot of industries and households, inspiring an entirely new generation of glues.

People were able to superglue products at home, repair things around the office with ease, while super glue adhesives made their way to the aerospace industry, construction, medicine, and even engineering.

Sticky FactsSuperglue works little better if surfaces that it touches have a little amount of water on them.

 Across the world today, in almost every household glues are used for arts and crafts to repair broken plates. There is a good chance you have super glue that is stored in one of your cupboards. It is estimated that the worldwide consumption of glues could jump as high as $50 billion in 2020.

How does glue affect you?

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