Inventor of Note: Arthur Fry and the Story of Post-it Notes

Air Date: 01/02/1990
Source:
NBC Today Show
Creator:
John Chancellor, Mike Leonard
Air/Publish Date:
01/02/1990
Event Date:
1980
Resource Type:
News Report
Copyright:
NBCUniversal Media, LLC.
Copyright Date:
1990
Clip Length:
00:03:19

In this 1990 NBC News report, 3M company chemist Arthur Fry, co-inventor and developer of Post-it Notes, talks about the role of trial and error, success and flops, in inventing innovative products like mildly-adhesive notes that could be "permanently temporary."

Inventor of Note: Arthur Fry and the Story of Post-it Notes

John Chancellor, anchor:

On Cross Country this morning, Today correspondent Mike Leonard reports on a revolutionary invention that resulted from a little `sticktoitiveness.'

Mike Leonard reporting:

Of all the great products invented in our time, some are simply, well, simple. Now before you say...

Art Fry: Why didn't I think of that? Yeah.

Leonard: ...take careful note of that man and his notes because Art Fry, as it turns out, is the brains behind one of the simplest looking, yet most innovative discoveries, of our time. Post a list of great inventors and he without a doubt can stick his name right up there, using, of course, his brilliant invention.

Fry: It's a plain piece of paper with adhesive on it.

Leonard: The Post-It note.

Fry: People tell me all the time, `I don't know what I'd do without
Post-It notes. I don't know what I did before we had Post-It notes.'

Leonard: What they did was fumble with paper clips, tacks and staples. That was in the dark years before Art Fry's engineering colleague at the 3M company came up with a new kind of glue.

Fry: And everybody said, `Pfhh, it's not very good 'cause it doesn't stick very well, it doesn't hold my packages together or it doesn't do these other things.'

Leonard: Sounds like a drawback, doesn't it?

Fry: Drawbacks to, to one person are opportunities to another.

Leonard: Yes, one man's problem can be another man's solution; a glue solution that was sticky but not too sticky. In other words...

Fry: Permanently temporary.

Leonard: 3M introduced the Post-It note ten years ago. Before we talk about the product's success however, we should add this footnote.

Fry: There's very few things that people really need, but endless things that people want.

Leonard: I'll buy that, and so apparently will millions and millions of other people making the Post-It note a very profitable product for 3M. As an employee, Art Fry is paid to come up with such ideas and therefore has signed off any claims to a Post-It note fortune.

What he has earned though, along with Spencer Silver, the inventor of the original problem glue, is a place in 3M's Carlton Society, a hall of fame, if you will, for technical wizards. Obviously Art Fry is a well-respected man in company circles, but with jealousy the way it is, I was wondering if anybody ever considered putting a `Kick-me' sign with a Post-It note on your back?

Fry: There's, there's--there is--there's a little of that but, in general, it's something that we sort of all share.

Leonard: `All' meaning the other 3M inventive types who are allowed to spend up to fifteen percent of company time on projects of their own design. For every noteworthy success though, there are hundreds if not thousands of noteworthy flops.

Fry: It's a numbers game. You've gotta kiss a lot of frogs to find a prince. And, boy, have I kissed a lot of frogs in the past.

Leonard: His prince, of course, was a beauty, and even if he didn't make a million dollars for his idea...

Fry: You know, my grandkids and my great grandkids are going to be using sticky yellow notes, and for an inventor that's as close as you get to living forever, I think.

Leonard: A nice note to end a story on.

For Today, Mike Leonard, NBC News, St. Paul, Minnesota.

Close NBC Learn

Choose your product

NBC Learn K-12 product site
NBC Learn Higher Ed product site

For NBC Learn in Learning Management Systems please log in to your institution's Learning Management System web site and click "Browse NBC Learn".
For further assistance, please contact our NBC Learn Support Team and we'll be happy to assist you.

Start Your Free
day
Day Trial!
Close NBC Learn

FILTERING

If you are trying to view the videos from inside a school or university, your IT admin may need to enable streaming on your network. Please see the Internet Filtering section of our Technical Requirements page.

DVDs AND OTHER COPIES

Videos on this page are not available on DVD at this time due to licensing restrictions on the footage.

DOWNLOADING VIDEOS

Subscribers to NBC Learn may download videos and play them back without an internet connection. Please click here to find out more about subscribing or to sign up for a FREE trial (download not included in free trial).

Still have questions?
Click here to send us an email.

Close NBC Learn

INTERNATIONAL VISITORS

The Science of the Olympic Winter Games videos are only available to visitors inside the United States due to licensing restrictions on the Olympics footage used in the videos.

FILTERING

If you are trying to view the videos from inside a school or university, your IT admin may need to enable streaming on your network. Please see the Internet Filtering section of our Technical Requirements page.

DVDs AND OTHER COPIES

The Science of the Olympic Winter Games is not available on DVD at this time due to licensing restrictions on on Olympic footage.

DOWNLOADING VIDEOS

Subscribers to NBC Learn may download videos and play them back without an internet connection. Please click here to find out more about subscribing or to sign up for a FREE trial (download not included in free trial).

Still have questions?
Click here to send us an email.

Close NBC Learn

Choose your product

NBC Learn K-12 product site
NBC Learn Higher Ed product site

For NBC Learn in Blackboard™ please log in to your institution's Blackboard™ web site and click "Browse NBC Learn"

Close NBC Learn

If you have received a new user registration code from your institution, click your product below and use the "Register now" link to sign up for a personal account.

NBC Learn K-12 product site
NBC Learn Higher Ed product site

For further assistance, please contact our NBC Learn Support Team and we'll be happy to assist you.

Start Your Free
day
Day Trial!