Reusable Adhesive and a Bible Bookmark: Ingredients for the Famous Post-It


You have probably seen them everywhere, on the fridge informing you of your lack of milk, on the door telling you when a loved one will be back, and even on the phone. They are Post-It notes and they are an invention that many cannot live without. This ubiquitous office supply would not be possible were it not for two men, Art Fry and Spencer Silver.


Arthur Fry a lifetime tinkerer who loved to solve problems from his childhood to his adult years. His first foray into the invention world came in the form of an attempt to make custom toboggans from scrap cast off from lumberyards. Growing up in a small town in Iowa, he later moved to Minnesota where he attended the University of Minnesota majoring in chemical engineering and working for the 3M Company while still being an undergraduate. He worked in the new projects department and was an employee there until the 1990‘s.


Spencer Silver, Fry’s compatriot and a fellow inventor got his doctorate in organic chemistry at the University of Colorado in 1966. He later took a position as a senior chemist fro the 3M Company. His specialization included adhesive technologies. He spent a good deal of his time painting and engaging in other creative activities while not working on adhesive innovations. Silver has over 20 patents registered with the United States patent office, which is an accomplishment in itself.


Silver is best known for developing an adhesive that was low tack but very high quality. The adhesive he created was actually comprised of tiny acrylic balls. These acrylic balls would stick to almost anything and in any position. The adhesive was still weak enough to be easily pulled off of a surface without damaging it, and could repeat the process many times over. Silver’s intent for his invention was to adhere to bulletin boards so that bulletins could be posted and removed with ease.


Although Silver spent five years showing the adhesive industry his new discovery, he was unable to find any marketable product for the glue. Seminar after seminar and presentations would not yield the necessary spark for his invention to become and industry standard and remained only a novelty possibly doomed to obscurity. This was until Art Fry attended one of Silver’s seminars and learned of his new adhesive.


Arthur Fry was very active in the choir at his local church and had always been annoyed when his bookmarks would constantly fall out of his hymnal or even be blown away by the combined breath of all his fellow choir singers. After a “heaven sent” jolt of inspiration, he realized his frustration was possibly the answer to Silver’s adhesive marketing problem. Knowing about Silver’s adhesive and knowing that it would not harm his precious hymnal, he knew that this was the answer to his bookmark problem.


When Fry wrote up a proposal to use Silver’s adhesive for small little notes the management was skeptical. That is until they noticed the amount of samples they were going through as the staff was finding more and more uses for what was to become the Post-It.



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