3M Museum

3M Museum

The 3M Museum is located in the town of Two Harbors, Minnesota. The 3M Museum pays homage to the five businessmen who, in 1902, founded the now-great company. 3M overcame seemingly insurmountable obstacles to become the company we know and love today. The exhibits include Attorney John Dwan’s recreated office; company photos, artifacts, and documents; and a “lab” area representing research and development, product diversification and growth. The Lake County Historical Society purchased the Dwan Building in 1991. One year later it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places and opened as a museum depicting 3M’s early years and subsequent successes. We highly suggest visiting the 3M Museum along the way when you take the North Shore Audio Tour. Price Was: $12.95 Your Price: $10.00 Minnesota Tourism

3M History

The Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Company was founded by men from the small town of Two Harbors, Minnesota. The company was founded by five entrepreneurs, a doctor, two railroad executives, a butcher and a lawyer, John Dwan, who owned the building that housed the company for many years, secured a shipment of minerals called corundum, which could be used for making high-grade abrasives and griding wheels. The newly formed company, today known as 3M, set up a plant and home office in Two Harbors in 1903. They sold their first shipment of corundum to a company in Chicago who tested it and discovered it was not corundum at all, but actually low-grade anorthosite, a virtually useless igneous rock which could not be used for its intended purpose.  This nearly bankrupted the company, but they decided to try to make lemonade from lemons, and leased an old flour mill on Duluth’s waterfront and decided to produce sandpaper instead. The last ingredient they needed to make the sandpaper was garnet. They were unable to obtain a domestic supply and were forced to order half a boatload from Spain. This too proved disasterous as the ship was caught in a storm en route to the United States. The ship made the journey successfully, but thousands of gallons of olive oil in the cargo hold broke open and drained into the ore bins. The oily garnet would not adhere to the sandpaper, and once again 3M’s customers were unhappy. This certainly was a rough start, but the company found an angel investor in Edgar Ober, who subsequently persuaded fellow St. Paul businesman Lucius Ordway to pay off $13,000 in debt and invest another $12,000 in capital to save the strugling company. Together Ordway and Ober purchased 60 percent of the company; over the next several years, Ordway, a self-made millionaire, spent an additional $250,000 on a company that had yet to produce a profit, and Ober, who proceeded to oversee 3M, went without a salary. A plant was opened in St. Paul in 1910, and the company’s headquarters was moved in 1916. During this time, the company was on the verge of collapse and an entreprenurial owner of a nearby tavern who believed in the company traded 3M stock certificates for a pint of beer a piece. It surely must have seemed like a stupid move at the time, but ultimately proved a financial windfall for the tavern owner, for from these humble beginnings grew one of Minnesota’s largest and most successful corporations.

3M Museum Sign

Of greatest significance to both the company’s foundation and future were the hirings in 1907 and 1909 of William L. McKnight and A.G. Bush, respectively. Former farmhands trained as bookkeepers, the two worked as a team for well over 50 years and developed the system that helped make 3M a success. McKnight created the general guidelines of diversification, avoiding price cuts, increasing sales by 10 percent a year, high employee morale, and quality control that fueled the company’s growth and created its unique corporate culture. The secret to 3M’s success during these years is  based on McKnight’s ingenious customer-oriented sales strategy. Sales representatives, instead of dealing with a company’s purchasing agent, were encouraged to proceed directly to the shop where they could talk with the people who used the products. In so doing, 3M salesmen could discover both how products could be improved and what new products might be needed. This resulted in some of 3M’s early innovations. In 1923 a salesman in an auto body painting shop noticed that the process used to paint cars in two tones worked poorly. He promised the painter that 3M could develop an effective way to prevent the paints from running together. It took two years, but the research and development division invented a successful masking tape–the first in a line of pressure-sensitive tapes that now extends to more than 900 varieties. The invention of Scotch tape, as it came to be called and then trademarked, established 3M as a force for innovation in American industry. During these early years from the 1920s to the 1940s, when most companies struggled just to break even, 3M gained a reputation as an innovator in the American market, as well as a being solid growth company. This reputation helped the company flourish through the next decades, making it the 110th largest U.S. company overall. 3M now has a base of over 50,000 products, from Post It Notes, to reflective street signs and band-aids. It has been the innovator of an amazing number of useful every day technologies. In fact, if you pay attention, you’ll see the 3M logo on almost everything in office buildings and classrooms.

List of 3M Made Products

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