Gaffer Tape Inventor Ross Lowell Dead at 92
Ross Lowell, the man who invented gaffer tape, died last month at the age of 92.
Gaffer tape has been called “the roadie’s secret weapon in the war against cable clutter.” It has been used for everything from securing wires to marking onstage positions ... and even the occasional practical joke.
The tape's versatility reaches far beyond the typical; it was used to hold Eddie Van Halen's boots together and even attached drumsticks to the broken hands of Motorhead's drummer.
Lowell was a cinematographer and filmmaker who developed gaffer tape out of necessity. Needing tape that was both strong and heat-resistant, he transferred adhesive from Johnson & Johnson's Permacel tape onto a tough, silver fabric backing. Though the name’s origin is unknown, it is commonly believed that gaffer tape was so called in honor of the "gaffer," the chief lighting technician on a movie crew.
The material has become a necessity for performers since its invention in 1959, routinely used in theater, photography, film and television productions.
In addition to the tape, Lowell also devised a lighting clamp that is commonly used on movie sets. He was given an Academy Award in Technical Achievement in 1979 for "the development of compact lighting equipment for motion picture technology." He was also honored in 1987, when the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers awarded him the John Grierson Gold Medal "in recognition of his many achievements, inventions and innovative developments in the field of lightweight lighting and of grip equipment."
Lowell's son, Josh, confirmed the filmmaker's death.