A Not-So-Sticky Post

Forty-three years ago, in 1977, the Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Company, known today as 3M, rolled out a new product in four American cities. This, several years after product developer Spencer Silver worked to create a stronger adhesive than the world had yet seen. He failed.

What he came up with instead was a mildly sticky adhesive that could be removed and re-stuck on smooth surfaces. That wasn’t going to work for the project he had in mind, but Silver wasn’t convinced his not-so-sticky glue wouldn’t eventually be good for something.

I have no idea how much time Post-Its have saved me over the years. But it’s a lot.

It took someone else to come up with the something. Art Fry was a forty-three-year-old 3M developer and committed church choir member who used scraps of paper to mark the weekly songs in his hymnal. The problem he ran into is that his makeshift bookmarks fell out of place all the time. He needed something sticky, but just not sticky enough to damage the pages of his hymnal.

Fry remembered hearing about his coworker’s sticky-but-not-too sticky glue and began to formulate an idea. He grabbed some yellow scrap paper from the lab next door, applied Silver’s glue and started scribbling away.

What hadn’t appealed to the test markets in the original four cities as Press ‘n Peels, took off when it was rebranded as Post-It Notes and given out as samples in Boise, Idaho where ninety-four percent of the people who gave them a go said they’d happily buy their own pad.

My household includes me and three guys, two of whom are teenagers. Other people are grateful I use Post-It Notes, too. Or at least they should be.

Suddenly office workers had a way to quickly make a note on a coworker’s report, label their sandwich in the break room fridge, and bookmark their choir music on the weekends. The more people used the Post-It, the more they realized they weren’t sure what they’d ever done without it.

I get it that. The Post-It Note is a staple in my world. I use them to write messages to my family and stick them in in their line of sight. They mark important places in my research tomes and endless collections of notes. When knee deep in revisions, Post-Its feature scribbled reminders that if I’m going to kill off so-and-so in Chapter 11, I need to drop a hint of his terrible illness into Chapter 3.

I admit I occasionally find Post-Its I clearly wrote, but cannot for the life of me figure out what they mean. I think this was a story idea. Obviously an awesome one. Being in one’s forties does have its drawbacks.

These little scraps of sticky paper seem like such an insignificant thing, and while I’m sure I could manage to get a long without them, I’m glad I’ve never had to. And I really haven’t, because we grew up together.

I’m about to turn forty-three myself, which seems like a fairly insignificant birthday. I’m at that age when I have to do the math to even remember how old I really am. But I do hope that like the Post-It Note I’m pretty handy to have around, that I stick to the important things, and that I’d be a hit in Boise if I ever had the inclination to go there.

And I hope that like the then forty-three-year old Art Fry, I’ve still got a few good ideas up my sleeves.   

21 thoughts on “A Not-So-Sticky Post

  1. Thank you for verifying and detailing a little factoid I throw out every once in a while—that Post-its were created by a man in a church choir. I’d read that little tidbit years ago but then started doubting myself when I’d share it but never had another person say, “I knew that.” LOL I thought maybe I’d been misinformed or made it up along the way somehow. I’m happy to know one of my favorite little trivia facts is true! Plus, Post-its keep me sane!

  2. Fun! 🙂 I’m not sure I could survive without post-its haha. I have a post-it calendar even that you can put tiny post-its on to keep appointments organized! 🙂 And then of course there’s always the Romy & Michelle connection 🙂 🙂 Happy birthday to you and the post-it!

  3. Nice post. It’s amazing how we take these things for granted and don’t stop to think about how we’d manage without them. Others have, we would, but just like the microwave, I love my sticky notes!

  4. I remember hearing this story a while ago. Good example of how screwing up now and then can actually yield something worthwhile. Although I can never seem to find my sticky notes when I meed them….

I love comments! Please keep them PG, though. I blush easily.

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