The 3M Story

The Evolution of 3M in Saint Paul

From One Product to Thousands

3M had its beginnings in 1902 at one small location in northern Minnesota. 3M's Saint Paul headquarters grew to become the heart of a major corporation between 1910 and 1962.

Founded in 1902, Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing was a struggling mining company in Two Harbors, Minnesota.

It became a floundering manufacturer of sandpaper in Duluth in 1905 with Edgar Ober as its president. Even then it had national ambitions, establishing an office in Chicago.

Saint Paul investor Lucius P. Ordway paid to relocate the company to Saint Paul in 1910.

Saint Paul provided better access to materials, supplies, and other markets, because of the railroad connections.

Ordway chose a site adjacent to the Chicago, Saint Paul, Minneapolis and Omaha railroad lines on the East Side, close to other industries. Residences and commerce were nearby.

The neighborhood provided a ready source of workers and was close to Ordway’s offices in downtown Saint Paul so he could keep an eye on his investment.

William L. McKnight was hired in 1907. Archibald G. Bush was hired in 1909. They introduced innovative sales and management policies that helped to make the company profitable. It began to pay dividends to shareholders in 1916.

Sandpaper was 3M’s first product and the source of an increasingly diverse abrasives business. When Building 47 was completed in 1955, it was the world’s largest abrasives plant.

3M’s success was grounded in research, openness to innovation, and learning from failure. When early sandpaper production failed, the company found the source of the problem and established a research lab for testing and learning. Emphasis on research and experimentation throughout the entire company always has been the basis of company growth.

Images

"Minnesota Mining & Manufacturing Co." Letterhead

"Minnesota Mining & Manufacturing Co." Letterhead

Original 3M Letterhead. | Source: Minnesota Historical Society View File Details Page

3M Saint Paul Office and Plant, 1958

3M Saint Paul Office and Plant, 1958

By 1958, the Saint Paul 3M campus had expanded to its largest size with over 40 buildings dedicated to product research, development, manufacturing, marketing and administrative services. | Source: Minnesota Historical Society View File Details Page

"Minnesota Mining & MFG. Co."

"Minnesota Mining & MFG. Co."

Source: Minnesota Historical Society View File Details Page

Original Office, Two Harbors

Original Office, Two Harbors

3M began in Two Harbors, MN in 1902. The original office is still standing and now home to the 3M Museum. | Source: Minnesota Historical Society View File Details Page

Edgar Ober

Edgar Ober

3M became a floundering manufacturer of sandpaper in Duluth in 1905 with Edgar Ober as its president. Even then it had national ambitions, establishing an office in Chicago. | Source: Minnesota Historical Society View File Details Page

L. P. Ordway

L. P. Ordway

Saint Paul investor Lucius P. Ordway paid to relocate the company to Saint Paul in 1910. Saint Paul provided better access to materials, supplies, and other markets, because of the railroad connections. | Source: Minnesota Historical Society View File Details Page

Railroad Junction on the East Side of Saint Paul

Railroad Junction on the East Side of Saint Paul

L. P. Ordway chose a site adjacent to the Chicago, Saint Paul, Minneapolis and Omaha railroad lines on the East Side of Saint Paul, close to other industries. Residences and commerce were nearby. View File Details Page

Crane, Ordway & Co. in Saint Paul

Crane, Ordway & Co. in Saint Paul

The new campus' East Side neighborhood provided a ready source of workers and was close to Ordway™s offices in downtown Saint Paul so he could keep an eye on his investment. | Source: Minnesota Historical Society View File Details Page

William L. McKnight (right) with C. C. Allis, 1916

William L. McKnight (right) with C. C. Allis, 1916

William L. McKnight was hired on to 3M in 1907, and went on to become one of the most influential figures in the company's history. | Source: Minnesota Historical Society View File Details Page

Building 47

Building 47

Source: Minnesota Historical Society View File Details Page

Laboratory, 1920's

Laboratory, 1920's

3M Scientists conducting product testing and research in the 1920's. | Source: Minnesota Historical Society View File Details Page

3M Scientists conducting product testing and research in the 1920's.

3M Scientists conducting product testing and research in the 1920's.

Early print ad for one of 3M's most recognizable products. | Source: Minnesota Historical Society View File Details Page

Print Ad for Assorted Adhesive Products

Print Ad for Assorted Adhesive Products

In the 3M laboratories, scientists developed non-rubber synthetic resins to produce adhesives used in the manufacture of ships, planes, and military equipment. | Source: Minnesota Historical Society View File Details Page

Electrical Tape Advertisement Photograph

Electrical Tape Advertisement Photograph

Advertisements showcased both branded packaging and practical applications. | Source: Minnesota Historical Society View File Details Page

Sandblast Stencil Etching, 1947

Sandblast Stencil Etching, 1947

Sandblast stencils were a 3M product that simplified stone carving techniques. | Source: Minnesota Historical Society View File Details Page

Decorative Ribbons

Decorative Ribbons

3M had a number of patented ribbons made with synthetic fibers, including "Mistlon" (1937"), "Lacelon" (1948), "Sasheen" (1950), and "Decorette" (1951). | Source: Minnesota Historical Society View File Details Page

Reflective Tape: Day

Reflective Tape: Day

3M reflective products were developed to make road and highway signs and pavement markings visible at night; here it is used to similar effect on a commercial vehicle. | Source: Minnesota Historical Society View File Details Page

Reflective Tape: Night

Reflective Tape: Night

3M reflective products were developed to make road and highway signs and pavement markings visible at night; here it is used to similar effect on a commercial vehicle. | Source: Minnesota Historical Society View File Details Page

Cite this Page:

Marjorie Pearson, Summit Envirosolutions, Inc., “The 3M Story,” Saint Paul Historical, accessed June 23, 2017, http://saintpaulhistorical.com/items/show/397.

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