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  3. History
  4. Timeline of 3M History

Timeline of 3M History

See how we evolved from mining for rocks to rocking science.

  • green storefront building


    1902 – Humble Beginnings
    • Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Company was founded by Dr. J. Danley Budd, Henry. S. Bryan, William A. McGonagle, John Dwan and Hermon W. Cable in Two Harbors, MN. 
    • Initial mining efforts failed to produce corundum, a mineral ideal for making sandpaper. Instead, the mineral anorthosite was used and sales were weak.
    1905 – Duluth Sandpaper Plant
    • The company moved to Duluth, MN, to make sandpaper with abrasive minerals purchased from another source, thanks to an investment from St. Paul businessman, Lucius P. Ordway.
    • 3M constructed its first manufacturing building, a two-story sandpaper plant. Poor planning caused the floor to collapse from the weight of the company’s newly purchased raw materials.
    1907 – Leadership in the Making
    • Future 3M President and Chairman of the Board, William L. McKnight, joined Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Co. as an assistant bookkeeper, and would become to be best known for shaping the company’s culture of innovation and collaboration.
  • 1910s

    1910 – 3M Moves to St. Paul, MN
    • Major investor Lucius Ordway established the first plant in St. Paul, MN, leading to faster expansion of the company due to its more central location.
    1914 – First 3M Exclusive: Three-M-ite
    • The 3M™ Three-M-ite™ Abrasive Cloth became 3M’s first exclusive product.
    1916 – Substantial Profits
    • Thanks to the Three-M-ite cloth and a boost in business from World War I, 3M posted substantial profits and declared its first dividend.
    • A new headquarters office is established in St. Paul, MN.
    • The first laboratory is established to test product quality. 
  • 1920s

    1921 – Revolutionizing Sandpaper
    • The company patented and introduced 3M™ Wetordry™ Waterproof Sandpaper — the world’s first water-resistant coated abrasive. Automobile manufacturers could use the product with water to reduce dust and decrease the friction that marred auto finishes. Also, this technology created healthier working conditions for employees.
    1925 – Masking Tape Invented
    • While testing abrasive samples at a body shop, Richard Drew, a 3M lab assistant, noted that painters were having trouble masking car parts. He got an idea that led to the invention of masking tape. 
    • The tape was a hit and the Scotch® brand tape product line was born, as was 3M's growing emphasis on product diversity.
  • scientist working in a lab


    1930 – Scotch Cellophane Tape Launched
    • Richard Drew saw another customer need. Cellophane was popular, but there was no attractive way to seal the clear material. He coated samples of cellophane with 3M adhesive. 
    • Scotch® Cellophane Tape was born and soon hundreds of practical uses were discovered, such as during the Great Depression, people found the product to be useful for mending torn book pages and documents.
    1937 – An Investment in Innovation
    • 3M Vice President, Richard P. Carlton, established a Central Research Laboratory to pursue research in technologies with long-term potential leading to 3M breakthroughs, such as reflective materials used to improve highway signs and markings.
    1938 – Reflective Traffic Signs Born
    • After 3M™ Scotchlite™ Reflective Sheeting was introduced commercially in 1938, the first traffic sign featuring this new product was erected in Minneapolis one year later.
    1939 – Easy Dispensing
    • Scotch® Brand welcomes the "snail," the iconic, handheld tape dispenser. The first version was made from stamped sheet metal followed by the plastic model one year later.
  • 1940s

    1940 – 3M Products Go to War
    • In the early 1940s, our efforts were diverted into applying 3M products to defense materials for World War II.
    1946 – 3M Debuts on the NYSE
    • 3M stock listed for the first time on the New York Stock Exchange.
    1947 – Bing Crosby Croons on 3M Tape
    • 3M™ Sound Recording Tape revolutionized the entertainment industry, allowing consumers to record and play back music and voice recordings at a later time.
    1948 – From Birthday Parties to Operating Rooms
    • Solid color gift ribbons and surgical drapes made their debut, further diversifying 3M’s product portfolio.
  • aerial view of bay


    1950 – Beautiful Productivity
    • 3M™ Thermo-Fax™ Copier was introduced, changing office productivity for making duplicate copies.
    • The colorful and shiny 3M™ Sasheen Decorative Ribbon for making bows created a new market for gift wrapping.
    1951 – Going Global
    • 3M established its International Division and new international companies were created in Australia, Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, Mexico and the United Kingdom. 
    1954 – 3M Goes Hollywood
    • RCA uses Scotch® Magnetic Tape to record television programs for the first time.
    1956 – Protecting Fabrics
    • 3M introduced Scotchgard™ Fabric and Upholstery Protector to the textile industry. 
    1957 – Double the Sticking Power
    • The tape product line was diversified with the introduction of Scotch® Double-Coated Tape.
    • The two billionth commercial-sized roll of tape came off the production line.
    1958 – Scotch-Brite™ Scours the Industry
    • Scotch-Brite™ Cleaning Pads were marketed for industrial use which was a new application for the non-woven product.
  • 1960s

    1960 – Hypoallergenic and Magical Tape
    • 3M Micropore™ Surgical Tape, the first hypoallergenic tape, was introduced and was a key to the success of 3M’s health care business. 
    1961 – Vanishing Act
    • 3M introduces Scotch® Magic™ Tape, the innovative matte-finish tape virtually invisible on light-colored paper and envelopes. Unlike glossy tapes, users could write on it with pen, pencil or marker.
    1962 – New Beginnings in Maplewood, MN
    • The first office building was completed at the 3M Center in Maplewood, MN, establishing the company's new global headquarters, where it remains today.
    1963 – Sports Fields Go Futuristic
    • Tartan™ Turf, the first synthetic grass surface, debuts. 
    1968 – Duplicating Gets Colorful
    • 3M’s Color-in-Color copying system produced a full-color copy in one minute. It was released to the consumer markets the following year.
    1969 – Venturing into Space
    • 3M products are used by astronauts in the first moon landing, including 3M™ Fluorel™ Elastomer, a synthetic rubber used in the astronaut’s boots worn inside the space capsule.
  • 1970s

    1973 – Carpool Commuting
    • 3M creates the first van-pooling program in the United States in Maplewood, MN, eventually branching to other states. During the first 22 years of the program, it was calculated that more than 58 million vehicle miles were reduced.
    1975 – Eliminating Pollution
    • 3M launched Pollution Prevention Pays, empowering employees to guide the company’s sustainability efforts. To date, the “3P” program has resulted in the elimination of more than a billion pounds of pollution and saved 3M billions in costs.
    1976 – Stock Market Spotlight
    • 3M joins the Dow Jones Industrial Average.
    1978 – Seeing Red
    • The blue 3M logo is replaced with a new, rounded logo in a specially formulated color – 3M Red.
    1979 – Helping People Stay Toasty Warm
    • 3M™ Thinsulate™ Thermal Insulation introduced with more than 30 clothing manufacturers signing up right away to use this product.
  • coworkers collaborating in a meeting room


    1980 – Something to Post About
    • 3M introduced Post-it® Notes, creating a whole new category in the marketplace and changing people’s communication and organization behavior forever.
    • 3M™ VHB™ (Very High Bond) Tapes were introduced, replacing rivets and screws in fastening operations due to its incredible strength.
    1984 – International Expansion Opens New Doors
    • 3M became the first wholly-owned, foreign-invested enterprise in China.
    1985 – A Note of Many Colors
    • The Post-it® Note product line expanded from yellow to include four new colors. Six years later, neon colors make their debut.
  • 1990s

    1990 – Privacy Please
    • 3M™ Privacy Computer Filters were introduced, helping protect information displayed on monitors.
    1994 – Working Up a Sweat
    • Nexcare™ Active™ Strips Flexible Foam Bandages made their debut, providing extra sticking power to perspiring skin thanks to the water-resistant adhesive.
    1995 – Internet Debut
    • 3M launches its first website, giving its customers links to thousands of pages of information on 3M programs, products and technologies.
    1997 – Gift Wrapping Made Easy
    • Scotch® Pop-Up Tape Strips and Dispensers were introduced, dispensing 2-inch, pre-cut pieces of tape from a hand band that allowed customers more of a hands-free wrapping experience.
  • 2000 to Today

    2002 – Celebrating with a Name Change
    • As 3M employees celebrated 3M’s centennial anniversary, “3M Company” becomes the legal name for 3M—originally incorporated as Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Company.
    2004 – Milestone Sales
    • For the first time in 3M’s history, sales topped $20 billion in large part to the innovative new products, such as 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.
    2007 – Consumer Products Continue to Innovate
    • 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, continued to exemplify innovative products designed to enhance the home environment.
    2008 – Illuminating Developments
    • Scientists developed a break-through, ultra-compact LED-illuminated projection engine for integration in personal electronic devices, including the 3M Micro Professional Mpro 110 projector, which has since evolved.
    • 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.
    2009 – Analytical Sound Waves
    • 3M’s healthcare business introduced the 3M Littmann® Electronic Stethoscope Model 3200, a next-generation auscultation device featuring Bluetooth wireless technology that transfers heart, lung and other body sounds to software for further analysis. These stethoscopes have successfully allowed doctors to study rural stroke victims and an astronaut on the International Space Station.
    • Featuring a patented, ceramic abrasive grain shape, the 3M™ Cubitron™ II Fibre Discs and Metal Working Belts increased the life expectancy of abrasives in the grinding industry by as much as four times.
    2012 – Channeling Solar Power
    • Our Renewable Energy Division and Gossamer Space Frames unveiled the world’s largest aperture trough using 3M™ Solar Mirror Film 1100 for concentrated solar power.
    2013 – Billion Dollar Milestone
    • 3M topped $30 billion in sales around the globe.
    2014 – Perfecting the Patent
    • 3M reached an innovation milestone with the issuance of its 100,000th patent. Each year about 3,000 patents are issued to 3M worldwide, with more than 500 granted in the U.S.
    2015 – Sweet 16
    • 3M named to the Dow Jones Sustainability Index for 16 consecutive years.
    2016 – Building Out Innovation
    • 3M opened a state-of-the-art, research and development laboratory at the global headquarters in Maplewood, MN.
    2017 – Staying Visibly Active
    • A new type of 3M™ Scotchlite™ Reflective Material becomes an attractive product for athletic activewear manufacturers. The washable, stretchable and stain resistant product adheres to a variety of fabrics and becomes reflective when illuminated at night.