Honoring a Legacy

The Paper Discovery Center opened in March 2005, as a STEAM-based museum. PDC’s mission, Inspiring All Generations, focuses on:
• Celebrating Innovators
• Promoting Cultural Heritage
• Experiencing Technology
• Motivating Learning

Since the first days of greeting visitors, the mission has expanded, along with a greater focus on STEAM-based programs and events. We take pride that we are able to lead young people on this important path of learning.

Early Atlas Mill History

In 1878, the four founders of Kimberly-Clark along with three Minnesota businessmen, started the Atlas Paper Company and built a mill on the site of the former Whorton Brothers sawmill in Appleton, Wisconsin. Excerpts from the 1878 Appleton Post illustrate how the community and Kimberly-Clark viewed this construction:

"The foundations of this building are being laid with the intention that they will serve the interests of coming generations, and this object in view is a sign of real progress."

The Atlas Mill was "the largest establishment of the kind in the West and there was none in the whole country having a greater capacity ... involving an outlay of $125,000 ... 500 horsepower!" according to an 1879 edition of the Appleton Daily Post.

The mill had three paper machines that first produced jute and wood manila papers. The original Atlas Mill burned down in 1888 and was rebuilt five months later. In 1907, the Atlas Paper Company was sold outright to Kimberly-Clark. There were three other K-C mills built in Appleton adjoining Atlas—the Tioga, Vulcan and Tellulah mills. The Tioga was the former Genesse flour mill and was operated by K-C as a flour mill for four years before it was converted to a paper mill in 1883. None of these mills remains today. In 1908, the Vulcan Power Plant, which furnished 25-cycle hydroelectric power to the Atlas and Kimberly mills, was constructed on their sites.

In 1999, Kimberly-Clark donated the Atlas Mill to the Paper Industry International Hall of Fame.

Learn more about the history of the paper industry at the Discovery Center!