3M Birthplace Museum

The Dwan Office Building, first home of Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing. Now home to the 3M birthplace Museum.

In 1902 five businessmen entered into a venture to capitalize on minerals on the north shore in Two Harbors, Minnesota. They were Henry S. Bryan, J. Daniel Budd MD, Herman Cable, John Dwan, and William McGonagle. Each man invested $1000 dollars to this new business. John Dwan would serve as the company’s first secretary and leased part of his law office on Poplar Street (now Waterfront Drive) to the new company. After selling one load, on June 13, 1902 the five men went to John Dwan’s law office and signed papers making Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing a corporation.

Originally a mining venture, the founders plan was to sell the mineral corundum to manufacturers in the East for making grinding wheels. The company purchased mineral rights and some 300 acres of land along the north shore in Crystal Bay and built a large processing plant that included a large tramway for hauling rock from the mine about two miles inland to the lakeshore. This location is roughly where Illgen City is today. Unfortunately this venture failed because the mine's mineral holdings were anorthosite, not corundum, which had no commercial value. Co-founder John Dwan would solicit funds in order to provide the company with the capital to continue in exchange for stock but the early stock certificates were jokingly not worth a “two bit shot of whiskey”. If you owned one of these original stock certificates today it would be valued at approximately 1.7 million dollars.

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 entered the sand paper manufacturing business at the most perfect time in history arriving on the scene to provide booming auto manufacturers with the products to help finish car bodies. 3M finally became financially stable in 1916 and would be able to begin paying dividends.

The 3M Museum in Two Harbors is located in the original Dwan Law Office Building. The Lake County Historical Society purchased the Dwan Building in 1991. A year later it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places and opened as a museum depicting 3M’s early years. Completely redesigned in 2002 by the 3M Company and operated in partnership with the Lake County Historical Society the museum pays homage to the early days of the company that would go on to define the business model of research and development and become a global force employing over 88,000 people worldwide with annual sales of over 30 billion dollars.

The museum continues to be maintianed through the generosity of 3M Foundation with an annual operating grant.

3M Video Tour

This tour features museum host Eldon Platcek, Eldon loved working the 3M Museum for us.
Our gratitude to the gentleman that shot this video and for posting it on You Tube.