Did You Know?: Post-it® Notes Were Invented by Accident

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In 1968, chemist Spencer Silver was working at the 3M Company attempting to develop a powerfully strong adhesive substance. Instead, he accidentally created an incredibly weak, pressure sensitive adhesive agent that was determined to be useless. However, Silver noticed that when stuck to a surface, the adhesive agent could be peeled away without leaving any residue and could also be reused without losing its stickiness. Despite these two features, no one, not even the inventor himself could think of a valuable use for the adhesive.

Enter engineer Art Fry who was looking for a way to keep the bookmark in his choir hymnal in place. As co-workers at 3M, Fry and Silver began to play around with the weak adhesive and discovered that the most ideal use was to apply the adhesive to paper and then stick the paper to any object they wanted. Originally named “Press-n-Peel”, the product was not a commercial success when it debuted on the market in 1977.

But, a year after the initial flop, 3M introduced the sticky notes to the world by giving away huge amounts of free sample pads to businesses in Boise, Idaho. The company was surprised to find that ninety percent of the businesses placed a re-order. After an accidental discovery, five years of rejection, and another seven years of development, the newly named Post-it® Notes were a hit and have become one of the top five best selling office supply products in the world.