At a Glance
3M was founded in 1902 in the Lake Superior town of Two Harbors, Minn. Five businessmen set out to mine a mineral deposit for grinding-wheel abrasives. But the deposits proved to be of little value, and the new Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Co. quickly moved to nearby Duluth in 1905 to focus on sandpaper products.
Years of struggle ensued until the company could master quality production and supply chain. New investors were attracted to 3M, such as Lucius Ordway, who moved the company to St. Paul in 1910. Early technical and marketing innovations began to produce successes and, in 1916, the company paid its first dividend of 6 cents a share.
- The world's first waterproof sandpaper, which reduced airborne dusts during automotive manufacturing, was developed in the early 1920s.
- A second major milestone occurred in 1925 when Richard G. Drew, a young lab assistant, invented masking tape - an innovative step toward diversification and the first of many Scotch brand pressure-sensitive tapes.
- In the following years technical progress resulted in Scotch® Cellophane Tape for box sealing and soon hundreds of practical uses were discovered.
- In the early 1940s, 3M was diverted into defense materials for World War II, which was followed by new ventures, such as Scotchlite™ Reflective Sheeting for highway markings, magnetic sound recording tape, filament adhesive tape, and the start of 3M's involvement in the graphic arts with offset printing plates.
- In the 1950s, 3M introduced the Thermo-Fax™ copying process, Scotchgard™ Fabric Protector, videotape, Scotch-Brite® Cleaning Pads and several new electro-mechanical products.
- Dry-silver microfilm was introduced in the 1960s, along with photographic products, carbonless papers, overhead projection systems and a rapidly growing health care business of medical and dental products.
- Markets further expanded in the 1970s and 1980s into pharmaceuticals, radiology and energy control.
- In 1980, 3M introduced Post-it® Notes, which created a whole new category in the marketplace and changed people's communication and organization behavior forever.
- In the 1990s sales reached the $15 billion mark. 3M continued to develop an array of innovative products, including immune response modifier pharmaceuticals; brightness enhancement films for electronic displays; and flexible circuits used in inkjet printers, cell phones and other electronic devices.
- In 2004, sales topped $20 billion for the first time, with innovative new products contributing significantly to growth. Recent innovations include Post-it® Super Sticky Notes, Scotch® Transparent Duct Tape, optical films for LCD televisions, and a new family of Scotch-Brite® cleaning products that give consumers the right scrubbing power for a host of cleaning jobs.
Learn more about 3M History at our History Web Site (Worldwide, English)