The phrase “cut through the red tape” comes from the actual act of cutting through red twill tape that used to bind U.S. government documents together. According to National Archives research, the use of red tape dates back centuries when European town clerks wove the twill ribbon through holes at the top of official documents. The expression "cutting through the red tape" probably dates to the 18th century.
Starting in 1994, National Archives archivists and volunteers specially trained in preserving original documents started to cut through the red ribbon that bound Civil War records to provide improved access to people interested in researching those records. Volunteer Robert E. Denney, of the Civil War Conservation Corps, while preparing some of the records for microfilming, got the idea of saving the red tape to be repurposed as mementos and keepsakes, and in turn the first commemorative red tape paperweights were made and offered in the National Archives Store.
The National Archives Store in its mission to generate financial and creative support for National Archives exhibitions, public programs, and educational initiatives, is delighted to offer you a new line of authentic red tape gift items and jewelry.