Interesting Inventions and the Stories Behind Them

There are many things that we tend to take for granted nowadays. We use products every day and some of these products have some pretty cool stories behind them. But did you know that you can learn quite a bit about these inventions through Rice Library? I did some digging and came up with a few interesting inventions that have unique stories of where they came from.

  1. Post-it Notes
    1. Art Fry was a chemical engineer at 3M, a Minnesota based adhesives company. He was in the choir at his church and in order to mark songs in his hymnal he would stick pieces of paper between pages. The
      Art Fry Before Entering the Inventors Hall of Fame

      Art Fry Before Entering the Inventors Hall of Fame

      pieces of paper kept on falling out.

    2. At the same time, one of Fry’s colleagues was researching new adhesives and made a mistake that led to a weak adhesive. It was just sticky enough to stick two pieces of paper together and take back off without ripping either piece.
    3. One thing led to another and Fry got his bookmark for his hymnals and the rest of the world got Post-it notes.
  2. Velcro
    1. De Mestrl, a Swiss engineer, was taking his wife out for dinner one night and he was frustrated because the zipper on her dress was being difficult. Later that night, he was taking his dog out for a walk and noticed cockleburs on the dogs coat and how they fastened into the hair.
    2. He then spent eight years developing the idea into a product that could be made cheaply and efficiently.
  3. Silly Putty
    1. Silly Putty has an interesting start. Two scientists, McGregor and Warrick were researching how to make a synthetic rubber during WWII, as it was low in supply. One failed experiment led to Silly Putty. The substance was so different from what they have experienced before that they decided to keep it around.
    2. Silly Putty

      Silly Putty

      The scientists brought the putty to parties to show to friends because they thought it was neat that it could bounce. A toymaker, Ruth Fallgatter, decided that it could be a product that people would buy.

    3. Peter Hodgson, Fallgatter’s employee, took over the project when Fallgatter got disinterested in it. He proceeded to take the product to conferences and put it in toy stores. Before long, the product was flying off the shelves!
    4. At the time, Hodgson’s death, he was worth $140 million just from the sales of Silly Putty!

These are just a few of the stories behind products that we use every day. Or, in Silly Putty’s case, we used all the time as children. The coolest part about these stories is that there are hundreds more just like them waiting for you to find them in Rice Library. So if you are looking for an interesting product for a paper or product there are multiple sources at Rice Library that can help you!


Read on,

Austin Viano


Van Dulken, Stephen. Inventing the twentieth century : 100 inventions that shaped the world : from the airplane to the zipper . New York Press, 2000. Print.


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