Need to leave a note for your parents to remind them to sign your field trip permission form? Want to make a quick list of the stuff you need at the grocery store? Chances are you need some sticky notes!
Sticky notes — also known as Post-it® notes or repositionable notes — are small pieces of paper that feature a light adhesive on the back. The adhesive allows the notes to be attached to a wide variety of documents and surfaces — and removed and reattached multiple times.
People all around the world use sticky notes every day. In school, at work, and at home — everywhere you go, people have and use sticky notes all the time. Would you believe that they’re a wonderful invention that happened totally by accident? It’s true!
No one set out to invent sticky notes. Instead, in 1968, Dr. Spencer Silver, a chemist at 3M Company, invented a unique, low-tack adhesive that would stick to things but also could be repositioned multiple times. He was trying to invent a super-strong adhesive, but he came up with a super-weak one instead.
At the time, it was a solution without a problem! Dr. Silver had a new invention, but he didn’t know what to do with it. For the next five years, he promoted his new invention within 3M, but no one could think of a way to use it.
In 1974, Art Fry, a colleague of Dr. Silver’s at 3M, was singing in his church choir. He became frustrated when the bookmarks he used to mark his place in his hymnal kept falling out.
He remembered Dr. Silver’s adhesive and tried some on his bookmarks. It worked wonderfully! The bookmarks stayed in place, but he could move and reattach them easily without harming any of the pages. The rest, as they say, is history…
Art Fry came up with the idea of using Dr. Silver’s adhesive on small notes. 3M launched the product under the name “Press ‘n Peel” in 1977 in four cities. Unfortunately, it was not an immediate success.
After a successful product test in Boise, Idaho, 3M released the renamed Post-it® Notes nationwide in 1980. They soon became one of the most popular office products in the world. And that original canary yellow color? That was an accident, too! The 3M team that first developed the product used leftover canary-yellow scrap paper from a nearby laboratory.