As with many inventions, the story behind the whiteboard is one that begins with a bit of an accident. Marvin Heit, who was a photographer and a veteran of the Korean War, worked routinely with film negatives. One day he marked one with a Sharpie pen and in his attempt to save the negative, discovered that marker wiped right off. That led to the development of the first whiteboards in the 1950’s.
As the story goes, the night before Heit was about to reveal his new invention to the world, the place where his prototypes had been stored burned down. Rather than invest in new prototypes, he sold his patent to Dri-Mark, who began promoting the product to the rest of the world. Heit then disappeared into obscurity to continue his work as a photographer.
There’s Another Story About the Invention of the Dry Erase Board
A man named Albert Stallion also has a claim to the invention of the dry erase board. As his story goes, Stallion worked for Alliance in the 1960s, which was a producer of American steel. One of the products that Alliance produced was a steel that had an enamel coating. This enameled steel was extremely scratch resistant, which made it the idea product for a number of different applications, including being used as cladding.
In a company meeting, Stallion said that it could be a good idea to use the product in the market of writing boards because it could potentially replace chalkboards. He wasn’t taken very seriously and so Stallion left Alliance to form his own company. Called Magiboards, it sold the whiteboards that were made from enamel steel.
Either way, dry erase boards began to reach markets in the middle of the 1960s. They didn’t really catch on at first because the first boards had to use wet wipes to clean them because dry erase markers hadn’t been invented yet! In the 1970s, however, the markers began hitting the market as well and the popularity of the product began to build. By the 90s, when chalk dust was being seen as a health concern, dry erase boards began to dominate in their field.
Who Really Invented the First Dry Erase Board?
No one can really say with certainty who had the first idea. The story behind Stallion’s invention can be verified, but Heit’s is difficult to find specific information. Both men have credibility behind the idea, however, even though some believe the dry erase board was actually invented in the Asia-Pacific region – probably because of the tie-in with Heit and his status as a Korean War veteran.
Whatever the case may be, the dry erase board as evolved into one of the most useful classroom teaching tools there is. With Smart technologies adapted into the modern dry erase board, this tool will only continue to improve the ability of teachers to teach, students to learn, and for the world to continue to advance in some small way.