Wells Fargo & Co. moved its Express packages by the fastest means available: stagecoach, steamship, railroad, Pony Express. In that era of the Express (1852-1918), Wells Fargo & Co. was like today's UPS or Fed Ex.
As America grew, Wells Fargo expanded to serve thousands of locations. The famous Wells Fargo Wagon picked up and delivered shipments through cities, from railroad depots to Wells Fargo Express agencies, to consignees, and back again. By the 1910s, Wells Fargo had over 10,000 offices and the familiar Wells Fargo Wagon caused excitement as it rolled through America 's streets. ("Oh what will it bring today?")
It is these Wells Fargo Wagons – NOT the stagecoach – to which the song “Wells Fargo Wagon” refers in the famous musical “The Music Man.” The two are often confused. The stagecoach is Wells Fargo’s Company brand, the use of which is subject to all manner of standards, oversight and permission. The stagecoach is not the correct vehicle for a production of "The Music Man. ”
Wells Fargo's employee records are far from complete – we have very, very few. Employment before our modern era had much less documentation. You will have the best luck in local historical societies and in museums. State archives and Libraries are good resources too, usually housed in the capitol or in a university.
Wells Fargo has only a few records of stage drivers and shotgun messengers. Wells, Fargo & Co. ran stagelines directly from 1866 to 1869 only. For most of Wells Fargo’s stagecoaching history, locally run and independent stage lines carried the express.
Wells Fargo's Express had thousands of offices across the nation, but many were local businesses such as drug stores, general stores, telegraph offices and the like. The merchants themselves got the Wells Fargo Express contract, and people hired by them did Wells Fargo business in the course of their work. Offices in depots were staffed by employees of the railroads and the depot itself, as well as by Wells Fargo people. There were many Wells Fargo Wagon drivers who delivered for the Company in small towns and big cities until 1918, but there is no comprehensive list of them.
We are often contacted for information about robberies, legendary and factual. But we do not answer questions relating to historic robberies.
Robberies were attempted when money or treasure was transported: Numerous incidents were reported in Western states. Local newspapers of the time have the best accounts of robberies. These are found through local historical societies and libraries.
We do not have any statistics on stagecoach robberies prior to 1870 or otherwise. The most complete record we have is that published by our special agents James B. Hume and John N. Thacker. Author John Boessenecker has written about a number of robberies in Badge and Buckshot.(University of Oklahoma Press, 1988.) Wells Fargo Detective (University of Nevada Press, 1986), Dick Dillon's biography of James B. Hume, also has information.
The Oregon Historical Society in Portland, Oregon, USA sells a very nice set of plans for building a model stagecoach.
You may write to them directly at:
You can also contact Ivan Collins, (503) 222-1741
Important: The name “Wells Fargo” and any representation of a stagecoach with “Wells Fargo” or variations on it is our corporate symbol and a registered trademark. Please do not use the Wells Fargo Stagecoach commercially or publicly without permission.
None of these were made by or for Wells Fargo
Because the Old West resonates so much with people, things that seem authentic can be "made" authentic by applying another Western personality on them: Tombstone, Dodge City, Buffalo Bill—and Wells Fargo. Over the years, people have applied our name to guns, tea kettles, badges, trunks and spittoons. There are also many items with a brass shield saying “Property of Wells Fargo San Francisco Division,” often attached to an actual antique.
The goal with fakes is to make an ordinary object more desirable. And over time, some objects can become believable due to their age. Some fakes are 100 years old!
We do not offer value appraisals: please consult a reputable antiques dealer or auction house. We strongly recommend the book Company Property
by James Bartz.
(Westbound Stage, 1993.)
Belt buckles marked Wells Fargo often marked have the legend, "Made by Tiffany" on the back. These are not nineteenth-century antiques, but quality fantasy items created in the last 50 years.
Wells Fargo Bank produced two belt buckles: In 1973, noted graphic artist Mike Dolas designed a rectangular brass or silver buckle with a stagecoach on it; another buckle was oval in shape and sported an agents star. Both are marked on the back as copyrighted by Wells Fargo and Company.
It is our experience that firearms with Wells Fargo identification are NOT authentic.
Wells Fargo did not distribute firearms over large areas or over long periods of time. Firearm purchases were local, and armed personnel usually brought their own equipment. Also, Wells Fargo offices did not keep many outdated records, so there are no comprehensive lists of Wells Fargo firearms.
Most important to this issue, "fakes" have been produced for decades, trading on the romance of the Old West. Firearms with “Wells Fargo”marks have become a problem among collectors of antique firearms because people add “Wells Fargo” to actual antique weapons. Of course, this is not to say that every firearm with a mark is not authentic, but it is very difficult to know whether any item was or was not used by Wells Fargo, regardless of the markings.
The best information to start with is the book Company Property by James Bartz. (Westbound Stage, 1993.)
The Eliza Smith exchange is a reproduction. There is a bustling repro business out there for museums, battlegrounds and other tourist destinations. These make nice souvenirs and gifts and are quite popular. There are many such documents out in the collector world, especially from the years 1869-71.
Our San Francisco History Museum ordered this product about 30 years ago, and gave away or sold them until the interest ran out. Since then, people find them in attics or in estates and contact us as about their authenticity.
Silver bars marked Wells Fargo are not authentic. These bars were not produced by Wells, Fargo & Co., which did not make or stamp bars to circulate as money.
Most are actually not silver. We saw them first in the 1960s and consulted with numerous numismatic experts, including those at the Smithsonian Institution. All concluded that these bars have no resemblance to nineteenth century bars. Analysis shows them to be made of base metal. But for certainty, check with a reputable jeweler, coin dealer, or assayer.
We receive inquiries regularly about crates of U.S. currency, often with accompanying documents, usually “discovered” in the Philippines. Dates and documentation vary, but the currency is usually dated 1934 and is tied to gold held by Wells Fargo, acting as agent for the U.S. Treasury. The story is completely false!
This is all part of an ongoing Currency Scam. People try to sell the rights to this “treasure” that never existed. Wells Fargo did not have an agreement with the U.S. Treasury in the 1930s, nor conduct business in the Philippines at that time. No such authentic documents ever existed—indeed, all documents are crude fabrications.
The Secret Service, a Department of the United States Treasury, rules on the genuineness of all U.S. money. They are well aware of this counterfeiting scam and have known of it for some years.
|1852 ~||Wells Fargo & Co. founded by Henry Wells and William Fargo to provide banking and express services to Gold Rush California and the Pacific Coast.|
|1858 ~||Wells Fargo helps finance the nation's first cross-country stagecoach line, the (Butterfield) Overland Mail Company, which carried mail and passengers from Missouri to California in 21 days.|
|1860 ~||The Pony Express shortens mail delivery between east and west to 10 days.|
|1863 ~||First National Bank of Philadelphia becomes the first national bank in the United States with Charter #1. (Later First Union, later Wachovia Bank.)|
|1866 ~||"Grand Consolidation": Wells Fargo acquires all major overland stagecoach firms in the West, connecting over 3,000 miles of western territory.|
|1869 ~||Transcontinental railroad and telegraph completed.|
|1872 ~||Northwestern National Bank (later Norwest) is founded in Minneapolis, by investors including William G. Fargo.|
|1875 ~||Wells Fargo drops comma from name ("Tale of the Comma").|
|1879 ~||Wachovia National Bank opens in Winston, North Carolina.|
|1888 ~||Wells Fargo's "Ocean to Ocean" express service moves commercial business across the country in four days.
Employee handbook states: “Proper respect must be shown to all—let them be men, women, children, rich or poor, white or black.”
|1906 ~||San Francisco earthquake and fire. Wells Fargo provides horses and wagons to evacuate residents and deliver supplies.|
|1918 ~||Federal government takes over nation's express business—including Wells Fargo—as a wartime measure. Wells Fargo Bank continues.|
|1967 ~||Wells Fargo and three other banks introduce Master Charge credit card.|
|1982 ~||Norwest headquarters building burns on Thanksgiving Day, the costliest fire in Minneapolis history. Weatherball removed in 1984 when site demolished.|
|1995 ~||Wells Fargo is the first major U.S. Bank to offer secure online payments on the Internet.|
|1996 ~||Wells Fargo acquires First Interstate Bank and expands into ten western states.|
|1998 ~||Wells Fargo and Norwest merger of equals creates $186 billion diversified financial services company.|
|2009 ~||Wachovia Bank joins Wells Fargo.|