Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Accidentally Genius: The History of Sticky Notes

Blogger: Amber Schamel

I confess, I am a sticky note junky. I use them for everything! So I decided it was high time for me to discover whom I owe my thanks to. What I discovered was that this amazing, wondrous little invention was a complete accident.

Our tale begins with a man by the name of Spencer Silver. Spencer was born in San Antonio Texas February 6, 1941. His interest was chemistry, and he studied at the University of Arizona, and then the University of Colorado at Boulder. After he graduated with his doctorate degree in Organic Chemistry, he became a Senior Chemist in 3M's Central Research Lab.

Two years after graduating and joining the 3M team, Dr. Silver was attempting to develop a strong adhesive. Instead, he developed an extremely weak adhesive. It was only sticky enough to adhere light materials, like paper, to a surface, but could be peeled off without damaging and re-positioned many times. Dr. Silver knew he had something, but despite his many attempts to promote his new invention, it just didn't fly. For 5 years he pitched to 3M colleages, and in presentations, but he had "a solution without a problem."

Finally, in 1974, Dr. Silver's coworker and fellow inventor Arthur Fry remembered the invention. He was having difficulty with the bookmarks in his hymnal falling out of place and decided Dr. Silver's light adhesive would be the perfect solution. It worked wondrously. His bookmarks stayed in place, but he could also move them without damaging the delicate hymnal pages. As the legend goes, Fry then used Silver's adhesive on the edge of small notes and used them to write notes to his boss. The sticky note was born.

Of course, we all know sticky notes as the iconic canary yellow color, but even that was accidental. When 3M was experimenting with this new combo invention, they used leftover paper from the lab team in the next office, and the only scrap paper they had was yellow.


Arthur Fry - one of the inventors
of the Post-It note. (Public domain)
After three years of experimentation, 3M launched the product in four cities in 1977, but again, the results were disappointing. A year later, they tried a different marketing campaign and instead of launching the product, issued samples directly to consumers. So it was that Boise, Idaho became the first city to discover the wonderfulness of Post-It notes. 94% of those who tried them said they would pay money to buy them in the future.

3M held the patent on the invention until the 1990's, so until then, the now-famous Post-It notes were only made in Cynthiana, Kentucky at the 3M plant. Now sticky notes come in all colors, shapes, sizes and even fragrances. Post-It Notes (the 3M brand alone) earns over 1 billion dollars annually, according to WorldWatch.org.

What about the inventors of the sticky notes? Dr. Silver went on to great success. He now has his name on over 20 US patents. He still works at 3M.


Both Silver and Fry have won 3M's highest honors for research and many awards. In fact, in 2010 both were inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame. Hey, in my humble opinion, the inventors of Sticky Notes deserve it! 


*****


Amber Schamel writes riveting stories that bring HIStory to life. She has a passion for travel, history, books and her Savior. This combination results in what her readers call "historical fiction at its finest".  Her title, Dawn of Liberty, was awarded the 2017 CSPA Book of the Year award in Historical Fiction. She lives in Colorado and spends half her time volunteering in the Ozarks. Amber is a proud member of the American Christian Fiction Writers Association. Visit her online at www.AmberSchamel.com/ and download a FREE story by subscribing to her Newsletter!
 

15 comments:

  1. I had heard that sticky notes were an accidental discovery, but never knew the difficulties in launching the product!

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    1. Interesting, isn't it? I would have thought the product would sky rocket from the beginning.

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  2. Amber, thank you for sharing the full history of sticky notes. I had heard about Fry using it in his hymnal but not the original founder, Dr. Spencer Silver. What an invention and being able to have a variety of designs and sizes today.
    Have a blessed 2018 with your writing and HHH.

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    1. Hello Marilyn!
      I'm glad I was able to introduce a little new information then. :)
      Thank you, and happy New Year to you too!

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  3. Amber, what a fun post! I'll never use my sticky notes again without remembering its history and the "sticktuitiveness" of its inventor.

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    1. I think that makes "sticky" notes just that much more awesome. :)
      Thanks, Barbara! So glad you stopped by today.

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    1. Hi Becky! I'm happy you enjoyed the post. I appreciate you stopping by and leaving me a comment. :)

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  5. Amber, thank you for sharing your very interesting post. Happy New Year!

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    1. You're very welcome, Melanie! Happy New Year to you and your family as well.

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  6. I'm looking at the sticky notes here in my office with new appreciation. Thanks for providing the rest of that story!

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    1. You're quite welcome, Stephanie! I am glad you enjoyed hearing the tale as much as I did.

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  7. I was familiar with this story because of the ties to Cynthia, Kentucky and I've used it before in a children's sermon. Amber, thanks for a great post?

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    1. Should be an exclamation point. No question about it!

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    2. Sounds like an interesting sermon, Connie! Do you live near Cynthiana, KY?

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