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R. Stanton Avery – The Inventor of Stickers

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Aimee is a digital marketing specialist who loves all things history. She enjoys writing content about topics she finds interesting.

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You may not realise it, but modern stickers are used almost everywhere in everyday life – they're stuck on almost every product in the supermarket, on cars, in schools, on prescription medicine, are used for organising folders and a lot more. No matter where you are, it’s highly likely there is a sticker near you – as I’m writing this, I’m currently at my desk with a bottle of hand sanitiser in front of me featuring a sticker with the brand name and ingredients on. The sticker is a very underrated invention. We all know Thomas Edison invented the lightbulb, but what about the sticker?

Humble Beginnings

The sticker started out as a type of label with an adhesive side to help it stick to surfaces. The inventor of the self-adhesive label was a man named R. Stanton Avery. In 1935, he used a loan of $100 from his then-fiancé Dorothy Durfee to create and patent the world’s first die-cut labelling machine. For this invention, he used a washing machine motor, parts from a sewing machine and a saber saw! He then started the Kum-Kleen Adhesive Products Company in Los Angeles and began selling these self-adhesive labels.

The Breakthrough of the Sticker

As his invention grew more and more popular, R. Stanton Avery became known as ‘Stan The Sticker Man’. He then continued to improve his invention, later developing a quick release coating for the back of the label, making sure his product could be easily peeled off without damaging the surface it was stuck on. He also developed a process where the entire sticker could be printed on one production line, his company was completing a multi-stage process before this. This helped save time and money and allowed Avery’s company to keep up with the increasing demand for stickers.

The Current Life of the Sticker

Avery’s company is still thriving, even after his death in 1997. His company is now named Avery Dennison, the company’s current net worth is estimated to be in the region of $16 billion – that’s a big change from the starting $100 Avery used to first create his humble invention.

Stickers have been developed more and more over the years, with companies now producing fluffy stickers, mirror stickers, 3D stickers and more – you wouldn’t think the sticker industry could be so diverse.

What about 'Stan The Sticker Man'?

You’ve now heard the story of the sticker, but how about a bit more about the inventor? Stan Avery was born in 1907, he was so poor that he lived in a rented chicken coop and worked as a clerk at the Midnight Mission, a human services organisation, to put himself through college. Before his inventive breakthrough, Avery tried his hand at various businesses such as selling smoked Tahitian bananas. R. Stanton Avery is truly an amazing example of rags-to-riches. Avery was extremely generous, the self-made multimillionaire consistently donated to educational and arts institutions. The most notable donation Avery made was $1.5 million to the NEHGS, The New England Historic Genealogical Society, they provide family history services and were able to further develop their research thanks to Avery’s donation.

Stan Avery has a long history of achievements and awards due to his invention, these include:

  • Named Business Man of the Year by the Harvard Business School Association of Southern California (1970).
  • Named California Manufacturer of the Year (1970).
  • Received an honorary doctorate in Humane Letters from Pitzer College (1977).
  • Received Honorary Doctor of Laws degrees from Pomona College, Claremont Graduate School (1971) and Occidental College (1985).

On December 12th, 1997, R. Stanton Avery passed away in Pasadena, California, leaving behind a great legacy and an invention that continues to thrive.

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© 2021 Aimee

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