The Way I See It: Post-It-Note power


Most people have never heard of Spencer Silver or Arthur Fry, but I, for one, owe the two a debt of gratitude. One for making a mistake and the other for figuring out what to do with it.

These two men, in a roundabout way, invented Post-it Notes. Those wonderful little yellow sticky notes surround my computer monitor and decorate my refrigerator with everything I don’t want to forget, and that’s just about everything.

3M company is celebrating 30 years of having Post-it Notes available on the retail market, but it was actually 40 years ago when a mistake by Spencer Silver made them possible, according to the website

Silver was an employee in the 3M company research laboratory. The company already known for adhesive tapes such as Scotch Tape and Duct Tape was always in search for a stronger adhesive.

Silver created a new adhesive that he hoped would be the strongest yet, but much to his dismay it was not any stronger than what 3M already manufactured, it was in fact considerably weaker.

The new adhesive did stick to objects, but it could easily be lifted off. It was noted that it didn’t damage the object it was stuck to, but that seemed to have little value in the real world.

Silver had spent a considerable amount of time working on the substance so he wasn’t about to get rid of it. He just didn’t have a clue what to do with it.

Then another 3M scientist named Arthur Fry figured out what could be done with it four years later while singing in the choir at his church.

In my church, if I were singing in the choir, there are those who would gladly use some adhesive to keep my mouth shut, but that was not the case with Fry.

He had always put scraps of paper in his hymnal to mark his place. Unfortunately the scraps of paper kept falling out and he would lose his place. Then he remembered Spencer Silver’s failed adhesive. Fry coated his scraps of paper with the weak adhesive and the rest, as they say, is history.

Yellow paper was chosen only because there was an abundance of it in one of the 3M labs. Now many colors and sizes are available.

3M began distributing Post-it Notes nationwide in 1980; 10 years after Spencer Silver’s botched batch of super weak adhesive. Today, the notes are one of the most popular office products available. And without them, I would never remember anything.

Post-it Notes are used for everything from expensive artwork to science projects to police forensics. And they are also used to make sure that I show up on time to appointments, take meat out of the freezer and switch the laundry from the washer to the dryer.

The way I see it, when someone hands us a Post-it Note, most of us will gladly stick it wherever we want.