3M was founded in 1902 in the Lake Superior town of Two Harbors, Minnesota, when five businessmen agreed 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 Company moved to nearby Duluth in 1905 to focus on sandpaper products.
Years of struggle ensued until the company could master quality production. New investors were attracted to 3M and the company moved 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 operations were diverted into defence 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, energy control, office products, and globally to almost every country in the world.
- 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.
- 1990s - 3M™ Privacy Plus Filter (first computer screen accessory to combine privacy, glare reduction and radiation protection); world’s first CFC-free inhaler for asthma sufferers and Structured Abrasives (using 3M's proprietary microreplication technology) are launched
- 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 the UK and Ireland
3M chose the UK for its first expansion outside America in 1929 distributing abrasives through a partnership with Durex Abrasives Ltd.
The UK subsidiary was formally established in 1951 and, whilst 3M products have been marketed in Ireland since the early 1950s, 3M Ireland was established in 1975.