With $30 billion in annual sales, 3M employs 88,000 people worldwide and produces more than 55,000 products, including: adhesives, abrasives, laminates, passive fire protection, personal protective equipment, dental and orthodontic products, electronic materials, medical products, car-care products (sun films, polish, wax, car shampoo, treatment for the exterior, interior and the under chassis rust protection), electronic circuits, healthcare software and optical films. 3M has operations in more than 65 countries including 29 international companies with manufacturing operations and 35 companies with laboratories. 3M products are available for purchase through distributors and retailers, and online directly from the company.
Five businessmen founded 3M in Two Harbors, Minnesota, in 1902. Originally a mining venture, the goal was to mine corundum, but this failed because the mine's mineral holdings were anorthosite, which had no commercial value. Co-founder John Dwan solicited funds in exchange for stock and Edgar Ober and Lucius Ordway took over the company in 1905. The company moved to Duluth and began research and producing sandpaper products. William L. McKnight, later a key executive, joined the company in 1907, and A. G. Bush joined in 1909. 3M finally became financially stable in 1916 and was able to pay dividends.
The company moved to St. Paul in 1910, where it remained for 52 years before outgrowing the campus and moving to its current headquarters at 3M Center in Maplewood, Minnesota in 1962. The new Maplewood campus is 475 acres (1.92 km2) and has over 50 buildings, including an Innovation Center that displays products 3M has taken to market.
The company began by mining stone from quarries for use in grinding wheels. Struggling with quality and marketing of its products, management supported its workers to innovate and develop new products, which became its core business. Twelve years after its inception, 3M developed its first exclusive product: Three-M-ite cloth. Other innovations in this era included masking tape, waterproof sandpaper, and Scotch brand tapes. By 1929, 3M had made its first moves toward international expansion by forming Durex to conduct business in Europe. The same year, the company's stock was first traded over the counter and in 1946 listed on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE). The company is currently a component of the Dow Jones Industrial Average and of the S&P 500.
The founders original plan was to sell the mineral corundum to manufacturers in the East for making grinding wheels. After selling one load, on June 13, 1902, the five went to the Two Harbors office of company secretary John Dwan, which was on the shore of Lake Superior and is now part of the 3M National Museum, and signed papers making Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing a corporation. In reality, however, Dwan and his associates were not selling what they thought; they were really selling the worthless mineral anorthosite.
Failing to make sandpaper with the anorthosite, the founders decided to import minerals like Spanish garnet, after which sale of sandpapers grew. In 1914, customers complained that the garnet was falling off the paper. The founders discovered that the stones had traveled across the Atlantic Ocean packed near olive oil, and the oil had penetrated the stones. Unable to take the loss of selling expensive inventory, they roasted the stones over fire to remove the olive oil; this was the first instance of research and development at 3M.