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History Timeline: Post-it® Notes

For over 35 years, the Post-it® Brand has helped people be more productive, communicate better and express themselves in a number of creative ways.

Yet as universal as these products have become, their beginnings were far from certain. Looking back, the birth of our Canary Yellow phenomenon reminded us of a valuable lesson: perspiration can be just as important as inspiration when it comes to bringing an idea to life.

HERE'S HOW IT ALL BEGAN:

From Discovery...

Dr. Spencer Silver, a 3M scientist, was busily researching adhesives in the laboratory. In the process, he discovered something peculiar: an adhesive that stuck lightly to surfaces but didn’t bond tightly to them.

"It was part of my job as a researcher to develop new adhesives, and at that time we wanted to develop bigger, stronger, tougher adhesives," said Silver. "This was none of those."

What Silver discovered was something called microspheres which retain their stickiness but with a "removability characteristic," allowing attached surfaces to peel apart easily.

Preaching the Gospel

For years, Silver struggled to find a use for his invention. But that didn’t keep him from touting the merits of his creation to colleagues.

"I came to be known as Mr. Persistent because I wouldn't give up.”

Meanwhile, Art Fry, another 3M scientist, was frustrated. Every Wednesday night while practicing with his church choir, he would use little scraps of paper to mark the hymns they were going to sing in the upcoming service. By Sunday, he’d find that they’d all fallen out of the hymnal.

He needed a bookmark that would stick to the paper without damaging the pages....To Eureka!

Thinking back to a seminar he’d attended on Silver’s microspheres, he had what he now refers to as his eureka moment. “The one where you get the adrenaline rush." 1

Partnering with Silver, they began developing a product. Once they found themselves writing messages on their new notes to communicate around the office, they realized the full potential of the idea.

"I thought, what we have here isn't just a bookmark," said Fry. "It's a whole new way to communicate."

Try It, You'll Like It

Fry decided to make 3M corporate headquarters his proving ground.

Fry supplied the entire company with the new adhesive notes. Employees loved them.

3M initially launched the product in four cities under the name Press 'n Peel with mixed results.

The Boise Blitz

Marketers decided to put the product directly into consumers’ hands. The massive sampling effort — known as the Boise Blitz because of its launch in Boise, Idaho — was a runaway success. Ninety percent of those who tried the product said they’d buy it.