The Stagecoach Story
Since 1852, Wells Fargo has sped customers' financial transactions by the fastest means available—steam and sailing ships, railroads, Pony Express, and the legendary stagecoach. In the early years, Wells Fargo contracted with carriers between points, including stagecoaches. But soon, Wells Fargo joined in an historic enterprise, establishing reliable transportation across the continent. In a short time, Wells Fargo came to own and operate the largest stagecoach system in the world.
1858: The Overland Mail Co.
Wells Fargo joined other express companies to finance the Overland Mail Company. The ìButterfield Line,î named for its president, John Butterfield, established twice-weekly mail and passenger service between St. Louis and San Francisco. Wells Fargo surveyed the route, which ran 2,757 miles through Fort Worth, El Paso, Tucson, and Los Angeles.
The stagecoach rolled night and day with routine stops to change horses and quick meals of coffee, jerky and biscuits. 25 days from departure points in Missouri and California, across treeless plains, jagged mountains and scorching deserts, the coach rolled into its destination terminus.
In 1861, the Civil War forced the overland to a central route across the Great Plains and Rocky Mountains, Great Basin and Sierra Nevada mountains. Passengers, mail and express matter connected with other routes north and southóthe West was expanding.
Wells Fargo acquired many of these other routes in 1866. The ìGrand Consolidationî created a vast staging network that extended from Nebraska to California; Denver to Salt Lake City, into Montana and Idaho; up and down the Pacific coast; and into Southwestern mining camps and ranches.
When the Golden Spike formalized the transcontinental railroad in 1869, the iron horse quickly expanded in all directions. Rail transportation pushed other modes to the margins, but stagecoaches continued to roll for years afterward, in areas where the rails ended. Wells Fargo dismantled its vast staging network, but continued to contract with local stagelines to carry Wells Fargo & Co.ís Express wherever it was ordered.
Wells Fargo retained some stagecoaches, which rolled out in community events to great popularity. In 1958, Wells Fargo created a stagecoach appearance program; since then, Wells Fargo stagecoaches have appeared in thousands of places and events around the world. The Program continues today, with more than 1,000 appearances a year.