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The Accidental Discovery of Post-It Notes

Team StoryWeavers|February 01, 2022, 11:26 IST| 44

post it notes sticky notes

Post-it sticky notes are like a catch-all for our fleeting thoughts. You might have used them to remember important formulae and properties from your textbooks. Or, stuck them on your wall to remind yourself of the to-dos and goals you want to achieve. Most of us are aware of the many uses of this stationery item, but the lesser-known story is that of the genius who accidentally invented Post-it notes and how this ingenious product came into existence.

A Sticky Situation

In 1968, Dr Spencer Silver, a scientist who worked at 3M, was trying to develop a super-strong adhesive that could be used in aircraft construction. During his research, he discovered an unusual, super-weak, pressure-sensitive adhesive agent called Acrylate Copolymer Microspheres. Upon inspection, he found that it had some very interesting features — when stuck to a surface, it could be peeled off leaving no residue behind, and it was also reusable.

However, Silver had no idea what he could do with this discovery. But, he remained persistent and introduced the adhesive to other 3M employees through seminars, hoping that somebody could find a way to put it to good use.

Dr Spencer Silver who invented post-it notes

Dr Spencer Silver, 3M Scientist (Image: via NYTimes via 3M)

Trial and Error

Five years after his discovery, Dr Spencer Silver approached the Products Laboratory Manager with a new idea. He suggested that they spray the adhesive on a bulletin board, and then one could stick pieces of paper on it without using tacks or tapes. The paper could be easily peeled off without any residue. While this was a decent idea, it would not be profitable enough since the annual bulletin board sales were fairly low.

The Eureka Moment

On a Sunday in 1974, another 3M scientist, Arthur Fry, was singing in his church choir. But, he could not deliver the perfect sermon because the little piece of paper that he had used to mark his hymns had fallen out. To solve this problem, he wanted a bookmark that would stick to the paper without damaging it. At that moment, he recalled one of Silver’s seminars on the low-tack adhesive and had a stroke of genius. He thought, instead of sticking the adhesive to the bulletin board, they should put it on a piece of paper and then they could stick it to anything.

Arthur Fry who invented post-it notes

Arthur Fry with a Post-it note (Image: via Public Domain, Wikimedia)

A New Way To Communicate

Arthur Fry partnered with Spencer Silver and began working on this new breakthrough. They faced a few hurdles initially — the earlier prototypes of the adhesive were made to bond better with the surface instead of the paper. They brought in two other 3M employees to produce a coating that could be added to the paper such that the adhesive would stay bonded to it and leave no residue on the surface it was stuck to.

Although this task was a success, at the time, the management at 3M did not believe it to be commercially viable and shelved it for years. But, these notes became increasingly popular internally within the 3M office and the employees loved using them.

“I thought, what we have here isn’t just a bookmark. It’s a whole new way to communicate.” — Arthur Fry via post-it.com

Spencer Silver and Arthur Fry

Spencer Silver and Arthur Fry (Image: via NYTimes via 3M)

Introducing Post-It Notes to the World

Finally, in 1977, 3M began running test sales for these notes under the name “Press n’ Peel”. It received mixed results and was overall an unsuccessful attempt. But, the new management at 3M believed in the potential of the product. A year later, they gave out large numbers of free samples to offices and individuals in Boise, Idaho as a part of the “Boise Blitz” campaign. This time, the reorder rate was over 90%, which was double the best initial rate of earlier 3M products. After this success, Post-it notes were released throughout the United States, and eventually, worldwide.

A Note-Worthy Achievement

Although many consider Post-it notes to be an overnight success, it took several years and a lot of luck to make it happen. In fact, even the colour of the notes was picked by chance — they borrowed scrap paper from a lab next door, which happened to be in the popular canary yellow colour.

post-it sticky notes

(Image: via Public Domain, Wikimedia)

Silver said that like many groundbreaking innovations, theirs was a product that nobody thought they needed until they did. Today, Post-it notes are used by offices, students, and individuals alike, and are one of the most loved stationery items on our desks. This incredible story shows us the power of persistence, the magic behind an idea, and the spirit of the people who brought it to life.

. . .

If this story inspired you, make sure you also note down your ideas on a Post-it sticky note. Yours could become the next biggest innovation if you put your mind to it. Tell us in the comments below what inspired you the most about this story.

 

About the Author


Vandya is a copywriter by the day and an amateur illustrator by the night. She's a cat mom 24/7. As a certified organisation freak, she lives and breathes in Notion. With a head full of ideas, she is passionate about crafting interesting concepts - for work or play. To kick back at the end of the day, she likes binge-watching shows with an inclination for all things spooky.

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Comments



Dhaval damor

January 21, 2022

Super


antim kumar

January 21, 2022

super


Adrija

January 21, 2022

Wonderful.


Ashish Kumar

January 21, 2022

Excellent


Vijeta choudhary

January 21, 2022

Awesome 👌
It is so helpful for me for remembering important dates and events of history. I usually see these notes daily on my wall and I got the formula or date in my mind.
Thus,it is so helpful in exam time.


Pankhuree Payashwani

January 21, 2022

Have been using sticky notes for a while now but didn’t know it had such an intuitive story


Prithviraj vishwas Jadhav

January 21, 2022

Super


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January 21, 2022

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MONONITA ROY

January 21, 2022

Accident is the mother of all inventions!!!


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January 21, 2022

Super


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January 21, 2022

Just awesome👏👏👍👍


ARSHIYA BEGUM

January 21, 2022

Amazing ☺️


Dipanshu

January 21, 2022

Thankyou. For this information.


S. Mohammed Sadheeth

January 21, 2022

This story is interesting but I am also want to be a scientist So can you help me by buying me book of ‘spiders hand book’ and many books about spiders.


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January 22, 2022

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January 22, 2022

Superb


Sanatan Singh

January 22, 2022

🤩 Amazing!


Ritesh Verma

January 22, 2022

Wonderful 👍👍👍👍


Vikram

January 22, 2022

Thank you byjus…for this information!!


Riwitika Gupta

January 22, 2022

So informative💕


Vaishnavi chauhan

January 22, 2022

Thanks for information 😊


Nisha

January 22, 2022

Super


Ov Akshayasri

January 22, 2022

Really interesting I have a habbit of using post it notes l also collect different colours of them it is very interesting to know their history. He failed in finding that strong glue but invented an useful stationary now. Failure is the stepping stone to success. A small idea can change the world


Roza Hossain

January 22, 2022

Awesome


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January 22, 2022

Super


Misbah shaikh Imtiyaz

January 22, 2022

Excellent


Akash kumar yadav

January 23, 2022

Very good


Biswajeet

January 23, 2022

It is almost as if all great inventions in history have happened by accidents 😂


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January 23, 2022

Knowledge level


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January 23, 2022

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January 23, 2022

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January 23, 2022

FAILURE IS THE STEEPING STONE TO SUCCESS


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January 23, 2022

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January 23, 2022

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January 23, 2022

Thank you so much for providing such a informative information


Syed Huzaifa Ahmed

January 23, 2022

Incredible🤟😄😃🤟👊


Mahammad Salim

January 24, 2022

Curiosity and continuity to do something is the key factor of invention.


Soniya

January 24, 2022

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January 25, 2022

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January 26, 2022

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January 27, 2022

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January 27, 2022

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February 2, 2022

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February 3, 2022

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