Caterpickles cleans house, Part 4

Taking most of the summer off from answering questions would have worked a lot better if I’d had established a Caterpickles Agreement with The Nine-Year-Old that she would take the summer off from asking them.

I did not, alas. The backlog of questions is really quite overwhelming (377 at last count) and stretches back almost to the beginning of my blog five years ago. Rather than ignore those unanswered questions completely, I thought I’d reach into the Caterpickles Way Back Machine and resurrect the idea of answering the questions in batches.

“Did they have tape 100 years ago?”

Yes, but it wasn’t the transparent Scotch kind. In 1845, Dr. Horace Day, a surgeon, created a fabric-backed adhesive bandage to hold his patient’s bits together while they healed.

Tape as we think of it now wasn’t invented until 1925 when 3M’s Richard Drew created masking tape as a way to keep paint from dripping onto the parts of the automobile where it wasn’t wanted. We also have Drew to thank for the Scotch tape The Nine-Year-Old relies on to post her favorite Calvin and Hobbes comic strips on her bedroom door.

Duct tape strong enough to repair the worn bits of heavily used cardboard transmogrifiers didn’t come on the scene until WWII.

Vesta Stoudt, the woman who invented duct tape during WWII. (Photo via BajaNomad)
Vesta Stoudt, the woman who invented duct tape during WWII. (Photo via BajaNomad)

We have Vesta Stoudt to thank for that. At the time she was working in the Green River Ordnance Plant, where she inspected and packed ammunition for the front lines. The boxes were sealed with a waterproof wax coating before shipping. A little tab of paper tape hung off each box. The idea was that soldiers in the field could pull the paper tab and release the wax coating, freeing the contents of the box.

But the thin paper tape the company used wasn’t strong enough to break the waterproof seal on the boxes. Stoudt’s two sons wrote to their mother that their fellow soldiers often had to tear at the boxes while under enemy fire to get the ammunition they needed. When Stoudt took her idea for a strong cloth-backed tape to her supervisors at the Green River Ordance Plant, they didn’t listen. So Stoudt wrote to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. He passed her idea to the War Production Board, which tasked Johnson & Johnson with developing Stoudt’s tape.

“Are sirens taped?”

If by taped, you mean “do fire trucks, police cars, and ambulance come equipped with electronic devices that produce a standardized sound that may or may not be trademarked by its manufacturer but which sounds more or less the same for each class of emergency vehicle no matter where in the United States you hear that siren,” then yes, the sirens in emergency vehicles are taped.

That’s why you can tell just by listening whether it’s a fire truck, police car, or ambulance zooming by.

“How tall was Goliath?”

After reading the story of David and Goliath one Sunday morning, The (then) Five-Year-Old wanted to know how exactly how tall Goliath had been. First Samuel 17:4 in the King James Bible describes the Philistine giant as being “six cubits and a span.”  Bible Study Magazine helpfully translates this for me as being 9 feet, six inches.  But they immediately mitigate their helpfulness by noting that Biblical sources disagree widely on Goliath’s height.

The King James version of First Samuel 17:4 is based on the Masoretic text, a Hebrew manuscript dating from about 100 A.D. But the Dead Sea Scrolls contain other versions of the Old Testament. And in some of those, Goliath is reported as being only “four cubits and a span,” or a mere 6 feet, 6 inches.

Given that the average height of a man in those days was slightly less than five and a half feet, even a four-cubit Goliath might have looked like a six-cubit one. Especially if the only weapon you have to sling against him are a few paltry rocks.

Goliath's guesstimated height vs. the historical David and our own Shaquille O'Neal. (Chart: Bible Study Magazine)
Goliath’s guesstimated height vs. the historical David, the world’s tallest man, and Shaquille O’Neil. (Chart: Bible Study Magazine)

OK. That’s enough for this week. Only 374 questions to go.

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