Skip to Primary Navigation Skip to Site Navigation Skip to Main Content All Site Map



3M was founded in 1902 at 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 to focus on sandpaper products.

Five industrious and tenacious northern Minnesota businessmen with diverse occupations founded 3M. They financed the company to mine mineral for grinding wheel abrasives. Like many others in the early 1900s, 3M's founders incorporated first and investigated later. In the face of failure, they persevered and turned their investment into a lucrative venture.

Henry S. Bryan
Hermon W. Cable
John Dwan

William A. McGonagle
Dr. J. Danley Budd

Years of struggle ensued until the company could master quality production and a 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 automobile 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® 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 field 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.
  • In 2007, the Scotch-Brite™ brand introduced the first disposable toilet scrubber with built-in bleach. Other products such as Scotch-Blue™ Painter’s Tape for Corners and Hinges and the Scotch™ Fur Fighter™ Hair Remover designed to grip and trap pet hair embedded in upholstery (2008) continued to exemplify innovative products designed to enhance the home environment.
  • 3M scientists developed a break-through, ultra-compact LED-illuminated projection engine in 2008 for integration in personal electronic devices, including the 3M™ Micro Professional Mpro 110 projector, which has since evolved through further generations and technical refinements. This was the same year when, in the wake of global concern around potential public health medical emergencies such as an influenza pandemic, various 3M respirators were the first to be cleared by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for use by the general public .
  • In 2009, 3M’s health care business introduced the 3M™ Littmann® Electronic Stethoscope Model 3200, a next-generation auscultation device featuring Bluetooth technology that wirelessly transfers heart, lung, and other body sounds to software for further analysis. The broad footprint of 3M innovation not only made impact in the field of telemedicine in the health care industry this year, but also in the grinding industry with the introduction of 3M™ Cubitron™ II Fibre Discs and Metal working Belts. Featuring a patented, ceramic abrasive grain shape, the structures of this product increased the life expectancy of the abrasive by as much as four times.
  • 3M earned the ENERGY STAR® award for the sixth consecutive year in 2010 as more energy-saving operational practices continued, not to mention more innovative products delivering eco-advantages in support of the company’s commitment to sustainability.
  • In 2012, 3M's Renewable Energy Division and Gossamer Space Frames unveiled the world’s largest aperture trough using 3M™ Solar Mirror Film 1100 for concentrated solar power.
Innovation Brochure

Culture of Innovation
(English, PDF 2.5MB)

Download Brochure

Related Links