Invention of the Post-It Note

Businessman with sticky notes on window
Cultura/Frank van Delft/ Riser/ Getty Images

The Post-it Note (also sometimes called a sticky note) is a small piece of paper with a re-adherable strip of glue on its back, made for temporarily attaching notes to documents and other surfaces.

Art Fry

The Post-it Note may have been a godsend, literally. In the early 1970s, Art Fry was in search of a bookmark for his church hymnal that would neither fall out nor damage the hymnal. Fry noticed that a colleague at 3M, Doctor Spencer Silver, had developed an adhesive in 1968 that was strong enough to stick to surfaces, but left no residue after removal and could be repositioned. Fry took some of Silver's adhesive and applied it along the edge of a piece of paper. His church hymnal problem was solved.

The New Type of Bookmark: Post-It Note

Fry soon realized that his "bookmark" had other potential functions when he used it to leave a note on a work file, and co-workers kept dropping by, seeking "bookmarks" for their offices. This "bookmark" was a new way to communicate and to organize. 3M Corporation crafted the name Post-it Note for Arthur Fry's new bookmarks and began production in the late 70s for commercial use.

Pushing the Post-It Note

In 1977, test markets failed to show consumer interest. However in 1979, 3M implemented a massive consumer sampling strategy, and the Post-it Note took off. Today, we see the Post-it Note peppered across files, computers, desks, and doors in offices and homes throughout the country. From a church hymnal bookmark to an office and home essential, the Post-it Note has colored the way we work.

In 2003, 3M came out with "Post-It Brand Super Sticky Notes", with a stronger glue that adheres better to vertical and non-smooth surfaces.

Arthur Fry Background

Fry was born in Minnesota. As a child, he showed signs of being an inventor making his own toboggans from scraps of wood. Arthur Fry attended the University of Minnesota, where he studied Chemical Engineering. While still a student in 1953, Fry began working for 3M in New Product Development he stayed with 3M his entire working life.

Spencer Silver Background

Silver was born in San Antonio. In 1962, he received his bachelor of science degree in chemistry from Arizona State University. In 1966, he received his Ph.D. in organic chemistry from the University of Colorado. In 1967, he became a senior chemist for 3M's Central Research Labs specializing in adhesives technology. Silver is also an accomplished painter. He has received more than 20 U.S. patents.

Popular Culture

In 2012, a Turkish artist was selected to have a solo exhibition at a gallery in Manhattan. The exhibition, titled "E Pluribus Unum" (Latin for "Out of many, one"), opened November 15, 2012, and featured large-scale works on Post-it Notes.

In 2001, Rebecca Murtaugh, a California artist who uses Post-it Notes in her artwork, created an installation by covering her whole bedroom with $1,000 worth of the notes, using the ordinary yellow for objects she saw as having less value and neon colors for more important objects, such as the bed.

In 2000, the 20th anniversary of Post-it Notes was celebrated by having artists create artworks on the notes. 

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Your Citation
Bellis, Mary. "Invention of the Post-It Note." ThoughtCo, Aug. 26, 2020, Bellis, Mary. (2020, August 26). Invention of the Post-It Note. Retrieved from Bellis, Mary. "Invention of the Post-It Note." ThoughtCo. (accessed March 22, 2023).