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.