The History and Evolution of Glue

From supplying kindergarten arts and crafts projects to meeting rigorous construction requirements, glue happens to hold our society together in more ways than one—literally.

As common as they are, most don’t realize the incredible history behind the commercial adhesives we see on store shelves. In fact, glue’s past goes back for thousands upon thousands of years, making it as much as a staple for ancient society as it is today.

If you want to understand more regarding the fascinating history and evolution of glue, be sure to keep reading.


The First Liquid Adhesive

South Africa

70,000 BC’s South African cavepeople are thought to have used the first-ever adhesives with substances such as tree-sap and red ochre. However, their primary use was only to preserve cave paintings, and not much else.


The Egyptians of 2,000 BC were some of the most influential scientific pioneers of their time. From building jaw-dropping works of architecture to creating complex hieroglyphic languages, it’s no surprise that researchers continue studying them today. Amongst these inventions was the usage of liquid adhesives.

To display wooden artifacts within the tombs of their Pharaohs, Egyptians utilized adhesive to keep them in place. Such material was created by mixing animal extracts from skin, blood, bones, and tissue.

Most parents today probably wouldn’t want their children to be playing with that!


Introduction of Horse Glue

As the 18th Century brought about modern societies and creative innovations, ranchers in Holland realized they could capitalize on the use of animal glue. As such, horses became prime sources when it came to creating adhesive, and the process was completed in a variety of ways.

The first method consisted of acquiring horse parts from slaughterhouses and animal farms, soaking them in baths filled with water and lime—therefore breaking down the pieces, removing them, and finally, extracting water from the lime baths to harden it into glue. Another method allowed glue makers to collect horse hoofs or bones and add them into a boiling mixture of acid and water, therefore creating an adhesive substance.

The popularity of this method saw a remarkable rise in glue factories, which many consider to be amongst the first-ever industries in modern society.


The Rise of Synthetic Glue

Thankfully, the horse-glue method is one that eventually fell out of popularity, especially with the introduction of synthetic and plant-derived products in the early 1990s. Additionally, many regulations passed prohibiting the killing of animals for commercial products.

On the heels of this wave, one of the first major glue producers to see worldwide popularity was a company founded in 1951, Ohio, which went by the name of Elmer’s Glue. Sound familiar?

Initially, Elmer’s Glue-All used milk products up until the later 20th Century, when most glue manufacturers fully transitioned to synthetic glue. Today, their adhesive is made of synthesized non-toxic chemical materials, making the product far more kid-friendly.


No matter how normalized and hassle-free the use of glue is today, there’s a definite lesson to be learned in its long, unexpected history. Such an invention truly reflects the ability of humans to innovate beyond restriction, and provide society with essential tools that’ll continue to be used centuries ahead.


Author: Admin