Since 1852, Wells Fargo has been part of the pioneering
spirit in the the growth of the American West.
In 1852 Henry Wells and William Fargo founded Wells, Fargo
& Co. to serve the West. The new company offered banking (buying gold, and
selling paper bank drafts as good as gold) - and express (rapid delivery of the
gold and anything else valuable).
Wells Fargo opened for business in the gold rush port of San Francisco, and soon
Wells Fargo’s agents opened offices in the other new cities and mining camps of
the West. In the boom and bust economy of the 1850s, Wells Fargo earned a
reputation of trust by dealing rapidly and responsibly with people’s money. In
the 1860s, it earned everlasting fame - and its corporate symbol - with the
grand adventure of the overland stagecoach line.
Wells Fargo’s Great Overland Mail
Wells Fargo sent its business by the fastest means possible: stagecoach,
steamship, railroad, pony rider or telegraph. In 1858, Wells Fargo helped start
the Overland Mail Company - the famed “Butterfield Line” - to meet the demand
for speedy communications across the west. In 1861, Wells Fargo also took over
operations of the western leg of the famed, but short-lived, Pony Express.
In 1866, Wells Fargo combined all the major western stage lines. Stagecoaches
bearing the name Wells, Fargo & Co. rolled over 3,000 miles of territory, from
California to Nebraska, and from Colorado into the mining regions of Montana and
Idaho. Read more about the Wells Fargo Stagecoach.
After the completion of the transcontinental railroad in 1869, Wells Fargo
increasingly rode the rails. In 1888, after expanding along the new steel
network across the Northeast into New York, Wells Fargo became the country’s
first nationwide express company. It adopted the motto “Ocean-to-Ocean” to
describe its service that connected over 2,500 communities in 25 states, and
“Over-the-Seas” to highlight its lines linking America’s increasingly global
Wells Fargo rushed customers’ business from the urban centers of New York and
New Jersey, through the rail hub of Chicago and farming regions of the Midwest,
to ranching and mining centers in Texas and Arizona, and to lumber mill towns in
the Pacific Northwest. Wells Fargo agents in towns large and small offered basic
financial services like money orders, travelers checks, and transfer of funds by
telegraph. Always, though, wherever there was mining, from Alaska to Arizona,
Wells Fargo guarded the gold.
By 1910 the Company’s network linked 6,000 locations, including new offices in
the Upper Midwest and Great Lakes regions. It was in these towns that the famed
“Wells Fargo Wagon” delivered goods of all sorts, from a grey macinaw to some
grapefruit from Tampa, as the song from the Music Man goes.
By 1918 Wells Fargo was part of 10,000 communities across the country. That
year, however, the federal government took over the nation’s express network as
part of its effort in the First World War. Wells Fargo was left with just one
bank in San Francisco…
For more information about how Wells Fargo helps
individuals and businesses,
visit our website.