How do we store information?

One of the most trying times in Wells Fargo Bank’s history was perhaps just after Isaias Hellman took over, when the Great San Francisco Earthquake and Fire leveled thousands of San Francisco buildings. In the era before electronic records, paper records kept track of how much money was in your bank account, how much you owed on a loan, and any other financial information your bank might need. Luckily the vault survived with minimal damage, and most records were saved.

iron-gate

Massive iron gate manned by armed guards 24 hours a day protects vital bank records from theft and damage. It is opened only for authorized personnel. From the Wells Fargo Archives

Entrance to labyrinth of caverns 225 feet below a mountain in western Pennsylvania where microfilm and paper duplicates of irreplaceable Fidelity records are stored for safe-keeping against natural or man-made disaster. From the Wells Fargo Archives

Entrance to labyrinth of caverns 225 feet below a mountain in western Pennsylvania where microfilm and paper duplicates of irreplaceable Fidelity records are stored for safe-keeping against natural or man-made disaster. From the Wells Fargo Archives

However the mid twentieth century introduced a new threat to records preservation, the nuclear bomb. Capable of obliterating everything for miles around, the traditional vault was no longer disaster proof. In 1969 Fidelity Bank of Philadelphia (now part of Wells Fargo) began preparing for such a possibility. They searched for a new storage center that was as protected as possible from nuclear damage. Far from town—but close enough for daily shipments—and protected from radiation. This process was documented in the in-house magazine, the Fidelphian (Fidelity’s version of the Wells Fargo Messenger). A massive former limestone mine run by the National Storage Corporation, now Iron Mountain Corporation was extremely suitable. The facility was located over 200 feet below ground, protected by armed guards and metal gates. While some paper records were kept, most were photographed and stored in a medium called microfilm in a nod to changing times—today most of that information is kept digitally in remote servers. This information wasn’t secret, but published in the employee newspaper as a form of reassurance.

Luckily a nuclear explosion has never occurred, but backup data centers help recover from natural disasters as well. Scroll back through the blog, and you will be treated to posts like this https://blogs.wellsfargo.com/guidedbyhistory/2006/03/running-out-of-money/ about the 1989 earthquake, and others (https://blogs.wellsfargo.com/guidedbyhistory/tag/1906-quake/ ) about the 1906 Earthquake and Fire.

Rest assured that even though we don’t want disasters to happen, Wells Fargo has policies in place to prevent disruption and recover any issue.

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Maurice and Ida

Here is another post from Nelson Baltazar.

Maurice Peairs and Ida: The Boy Who Used Wells Fargo’s Express Service

Wells Fargo’s legendary express service was known for its rapid and reliable mail and package delivery, however, Wells Fargo also shipped unique and lesser known items during its heyday and live animals was one of them. I recently stumbled upon an old company novelty-a book marker that featured a black and white picture of a 9-year-old mid-western boy who used the company’s express service to ship his calf, Ida, as a donation to the Red Cross. Here’s what young Maurice said before handing his calf over to the reliable hands of Wells Fargo’s Express Service:

“Sending my calf Ida by Wells Fargo express. Should arrive early tomorrow. Will feed her just before shipping. Be sure she is fed on arrival and three or four times a day with sweet milk.”

This cute story appeared in the August 1917 edition of the Wells Fargo Messenger, the company’s historical turn-of-the-century publication. Wells Fargo helped people in many ways during in the olden days and this tradition continues today-transporting a young boy’s donated calf was certainly one of those unique occasions. The story of young Maurice and his calf was highlighted in this souvenir bookmarker.Maurice bookmark

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Knocking, and Rapping, and Tapping… Oh My!

Kenia Galaviz (Wells Fargo History Museum)

Kenia Galaviz (Wells Fargo History Museum)

Kenia Galaviz is a Museum Assistant in Los Angeles. She has a Bachelors in History and Creative Writing from UCR, where she helped found an organization dedicated to assisting foster youth. She speaks Spanish fluently and is currently tackling a new language: Japanese. “Hajimemashite!” (CR)

Many years ago, Henry Wells & William Fargo embarked on a risky venture in creating Wells Fargo & Co in Gold Rush California. And like these hopeful individuals so too did the prospectors of old arrive with their tenacious optimism coupled with staunchly held beliefs in search of promised riches. Some of these beliefs belonged to the more superstitious variety; a curious one being that of the “Tommyknockers”.
The story was brought over to America by the Cornish, who believed that the knockers were little dwarf-like creatures, similar to leprechauns, who would bring either good or bad luck to a miner. They were tiny, about two feet tall, and on some accounts were also said to be green. One description that is prevalent is that they were dressed in miner’s garb.
The Tommyknockers get their name from the ominous tapping and knocking sounds that men would hear inside the mines. Some men attributed the sounds to these creatures hammering away in order to cause cave-ins or other type of accidents that were wont to happen 40 feet below the ground. According to these fearful men, death awaited the miner who had the misfortune of hearing the knocking first. The less superstitiously inclined would dismiss those claims with the real explanation: that the stressed walls and wood beams were the culprits of the noise. However, this apparently did not deter the persistence of the folklore as it frightened some men to such an extent that they demanded the closure of certain mines for the simple fact that they were “haunted”.
With time the legend evolved, as these things do. People came to believe the small dwarves were miners who died in the shafts, their spirits forever dwelling underground. They warned miners of doom heading their way, or simply committed mischief as a way of vengeance for being disrespected. To appease these spirits miners would leave the last bite of their food and sometimes even dolls resembling miners, in the caves.

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Wells Fargo in France

(Image from Wells Fargo Corporate Archives)

(Image from Wells Fargo Corporate Archives)

Today, citizens of France commemorate the beginning of the French Revolution. Although Wells Fargo’s business in France did not date back to the storming of the Bastille in 1789, Wells Fargo had a presence in France as early as 1853. One year after opening for business, Wells Fargo purchased the business of Livingston, Wells & Company and opened an office at 8 Place de La Bourse in Paris. Henry Wells and Crawford Livingston started the company a decade earlier to carry on a business forwarding gold dust and bullion and packages by steamship between port cities in the United States and Europe. Wells Fargo’s banking customers obtained drafts for Europe at any of Wells Fargo’s offices. In October 1856, the excitement of the gold rush waned and trans-Atlantic business slowed. Wells Fargo closed the Paris office of Livingston, Wells & Company.

From 1860 to 1900, Wells Fargo’s business was carried out through banking relationships with French firms that included Lherbette, Kane & Co., Bowles Bros & Co., Kane & Co., Armstrong & Co., and Michell & Kimbel. In 1914, Wells Fargo opened an office on the ground floor of the Grand Hotel at 4 Rue Scribe with agent M. M. Fitz-Henry in charge.

(Image from Wells Fargo Corporate Archives)

(Image from Wells Fargo Corporate Archives)

Wells Fargo hung its sign in Paris at a time when business looked promising. International travel and trade was on the upswing, as transatlantic liners carried leisure travelers overseas. In their bags, they packed a new financial product, travelers checks; first introduced by American Express Company in the 1890s. Wells Fargo came out with its own line of travelers checks in 1903, and company ads promoted their convenience to travelers bound for Europe.

June 1918 Wells Fargo Messenger ad (Image from Wells Fargo Corporate Archives)

June 1918 Wells Fargo Messenger ad (Image from Wells Fargo Corporate Archives)

Wells Fargo also introduced money orders for its customers traveling aboard and foreign postal remittances to France, Great Britain, and other European countries. At Wells Fargo’s office on Rue Scribe in the Grand Hotel in Paris, Wells Fargo customers cashed traveler’s checks, stored baggage, and planned itineraries for further travel.

After America’s entry into war in 1917, soldiers arriving to join the battle on the fields of France collected mail, cashed checks, and received and sent money and packages in care of Wells Fargo. Soldiers even wrote letters home on free Wells Fargo-supplied stationery. Military officers and troops opened checking accounts in the local currency at Wells Fargo’s banking department. Account holders deposited checks and pay vouchers just as they did when banking at home. The February 1918 Messenger wrote about the uniqueness of American troops holding Wells Fargo checking accounts in a foreign country: “Perhaps one of the most unusual is that of opening and maintaining checking accounts for soldiers. The fighters may deposit their salary checks or pay vouchers at our office. Then, they are given checkbooks and can draw on their accounts, as they would on their banks at home.”

London-Paris advertisement (Image from Wells Fargo Corporate Archives)

London-Paris advertisement (Image from Wells Fargo Corporate Archives)

As more troops settled into army camps in France, Wells Fargo worked with France’s leading banking institution Société Générale and its extensive network of 1,000 branch offices to offer financial and express shipping services in nearby towns and villages for U. S. soldiers to send money home. Société Générale had served for over 50 years as Wells Fargo’s financial agent in France. This proved helpful to the “Sammies,” American troops serving “somewhere in France” during World War One. The money that soldiers sent home was accepted by the bank and a Wells Fargo receipt given for it, and money orders received from home were cashed readily.

Internationally, there are many different services that Wells Fargo offers today. Business financial services, foreign exchange, and customer service are some of the features that can be accessed internationally.

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Opening Day! 163 years ago.

Henry Wells and William Fargo signed the Articles of Association, establishing Wells Fargo & Co Express, on March 18th 1852 in New York City.  Four months later they were ready to open for business in California.

first day, 1852In the 1856 San Francisco directory, Wells Fargo is listed as having “Established business in California, July 13, 1852. At 9 o’clock, banker Reuben W. Washburn and expressman Samuel W. Carter threw open the iron fire shutters at 424 Montgomery Street and waited on customers. From the inside of this 20 by 65 foot “fine fire proof store (new), in just the right place,” Carter reported, he weighed and purchased gold dust, while Washburn sold drafts payable in the east.

Bill of Exchange from July 13th 1852, Wells Fargo's Opening Day ( Wells Fargo Corporate Archives)

Bill of Exchange from July 13th 1852, Wells Fargo’s Opening Day ( Wells Fargo Corporate Archives)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the evening, Wells Fargo messengers steamed in on the river boats from Sacramento, reporting that the Wells Fargo office there had also opened to a good business.  Wells Fargo continued to grow along side California, and utilized many forms of transportation and communication to efficiently and effectively meet their customers needs.  Here’s to another successful 163 years!

 

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More cake, please!

July is national ice cream month, and nothing goes better with ice cream than cake. My previous blog featuring cake photographs found in the Wells Fargo Corporate Archives was surprisingly popular, and I am happy to be returning with a few more. The most exciting are images from the 1984 South Carolina National Bank and First National Bank of South Carolina merger celebration which featured a massive cake slice. It was so huge the street was closed to traffic and bakers had to frost it from a cherry picker! Other cakes are shaped like bank buildings, one is for a customer’s birthday and all look positively joyous.

South Carolina National Bank and First National Bank of South Carolina merger festivities, 1984. (Wells Fargo Corporate Archives)

South Carolina National Bank and First National Bank of South Carolina merger festivities, 1984. (Wells Fargo Corporate Archives)

First National Bank and Trust Company of Marquette in Michigan celebrates its Marina branch opening, 1976. (Wells Fargo Corporate Archives)

First National Bank and Trust Company of Marquette in Michigan celebrates its Marina branch opening, 1976. (Wells Fargo Corporate Archives)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A child reaches for the 120th anniversary cake of the First National Bank of Gonzales in Texas, 1988. (Wells Fargo Corporate Archives)

A child reaches for the 120th anniversary cake of the First National Bank of Gonzales in Texas, 1988. (Wells Fargo Corporate Archives)

 

A congratulatory cake for Louise Stephens from Philadelphia National Bank, 1986.  (Wells Fargo Corporate Archives)

A congratulatory cake for Louise Stephens from Philadelphia National Bank, 1986. (Wells Fargo Corporate Archives)

 

 

A sweet welcome to South Carolina National Bank in Winnsboro, SC during their Wachovia name change, 1994. (Wells Fargo Corporate Archives)

A sweet welcome to South Carolina National Bank in Winnsboro, SC during their Wachovia name change, 1994. (Wells Fargo Corporate Archives)

 

Pennies decorate this cake celebrating 100 years for The First Northwestern National Bank of Mandan in North Dakota, 1981. (Wells Fargo Corporate Archives)

Pennies decorate this cake celebrating 100 years for The First Northwestern National Bank of Mandan in North Dakota, 1981. (Wells Fargo Corporate Archives)

 

 

 

The opening of the Paradise Valley location of First National Bank of Arizona looked quite festive, ca. 1950s. (Wells Fargo Corporate Archives)

The opening of the Paradise Valley location of First National Bank of Arizona looked quite festive, ca. 1950s. (Wells Fargo Corporate Archives)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Independence Day

A holiday weekend is here. Time to celebrate each of our share in the nation’s birthday. And it marks the height of summer, too—the very best time of the year!

This image is from March 1918, from the Wells Fargo Messenger, our company newsletter. Imagine a piano at the office today, with spirited singing at break time! Awesome. I can hear them singing “America” right now…

Happy 4th of July, everyone!

Wells Fargo Messenger, March 1918 (Wells Fargo Corporate Archives)

Wells Fargo Messenger, March 1918 (Wells Fargo Corporate Archives)

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Assay

Alyssa BentzAlyssa Bentz, Wells Fargo Historian, gives this update “from the field.” (CR)

Being I recently had the chance to take a road trip up to Columbia State Historic Park, a preserved gold rush town nestled in the Sierra foothills. The “Gem of the Southern Mines” as it has since been called, Columbia was in the heart of gold mining country in the 1850s. From 1850-1870 miners found an estimated billion dollars of gold (at today’s values,) and much of that gold left town in a Wells Fargo treasure box.

Wells Fargo came to Columbia in 1853. A Prussian immigrant named William Daegener managed the Wells Fargo office from inside the American Hotel. Fires posed a constant threat to many mining towns filled with closely packed wooden buildings. The hotel (and Wells Fargo office) burned down in 1854 and 1857. Daegener wasn’t too thrilled with the idea of having to save the Wells Fargo records from fire again, so he set about building a two-story brick building with fire-proof iron shutters. The new Wells Fargo express office opened in 1858, and is still standing and open for visitors in Columbia today.

Street scene, Columbia, Calif. (Photo by Allyssa Bentz)

Street scene, Columbia, Calif. (Photo by Allyssa Bentz)

The office in Columbia acted as a business and social hub. Stagecoaches from the river city of Stockton stopped at the office, delivering the latest newspapers, letters, and packages. Customers came to the Wells Fargo office to make deposits into the company safe and send convenient bank drafts and checks to family and businesses far away.

Wells Fargo & Co's Express office in Columbia, Calif. (Wells Fargo Corporate Archives)

Wells Fargo & Co’s Express office in Columbia, Calif. (Wells Fargo Corporate Archives)

Agent Daegener also bought gold dust from nearby miners, an important service as many could not go far from their claims to convert gold dust into gold coin. Not all gold dust was equal. Gold found from claims feet apart could vary greatly in quality. Daegener had to carefully value (or assay) customers’ dust and follow the instructions sent by Wells Fargo Superintendent J. M. Vansyckle to “Pay no more for dust than it is worth, nor make no arrangements with anyone to pay less than it is worth. This is the only true motto to do any kind of business on.” This standard of business stood in contrast to the practices of some assayers who would take advantage of their customers’ desperation to sell by paying less for gold dust than it was worth.

Display at Wells Fargo office in Columbia, Calif. (Photo by Allyssa Bentz)

Display at Wells Fargo office in Columbia, Calif. (Photo by Allyssa Bentz)

In 1860, Daegener expanded his assay operations by buying a furnace and other equipment. He began using the back of the Wells Fargo express office as his assay room. After a fire (possibly caused by his assay work) he built a separate space for his assay work outside of the Wells Fargo building that also served as his family home.

William A. Daegner, Wells Fargo Agent in Columbia, Calif. (Wells Fargo Corporate Archives)

William A. Daegner, Wells Fargo Agent in Columbia, Calif. (Wells Fargo Corporate Archives)

Most assay rooms have disappeared with time, but Daegener’s assay room still exists in Columbia.

Reading instructions on assaying are a bit like reading through the steps of a science experiment. The steps might not sound so exciting on paper, but in action it can be mesmerizing. Looking at the assay room in Columbia, I could almost imagine Daegener bending over the furnace or pouring acid in a crucible. All that difficult, complicated work so that in the end he could ensure that miners got a fair price for their gold.

For the curious, here are the simplified steps of assaying:

  1. Melt the miner’s gold dust into a bar. It takes a lot of heat to melt gold (1,948⁰ F, about 4 times hotter than your kitchen oven) so a good furnace is essential.
  2. Cut chips from the opposite corners and weigh on precision scales. The scales Wells Fargo sent Daegener in 1857 from Howard & Davis in Boston are still on display in Columbia.
  3. Heat these chips in a bone ash cupel (a small dish), which absorbs ordinary metals.
  4. Add nitric acid to dissolve silver and other impurities, leaving pure gold.
  5. Take that pure gold back to those precision scales and weigh again.
  6. Do math. Divide the final weight of the gold by the original weight to get the percentage of gold in the original. If you started with one ounce and after burning off the impurities you had ½ an ounce, then your original gold dust was 50% pure.
Assay room in Columbia, Calif. (Photo by Allyssa Bentz)

Assay room in Columbia, Calif. (Photo by Allyssa Bentz)

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Working dog

Tomorrow is Bring Your Dog to Work Day… but what sort of work will they really do? Wells Fargo’s Jack the Dog was immortalized by a photograph at San Francisco’s Midwinter Fair in 1893 and became an icon of security and service for the company. In 1972 a different sort of working dog named Cola Beers visited Wells Fargo to open a bank account. From Arcata, California, Cola used the account to save earned money and pay for expenses at dog shows.

Wells Fargo Bank teller Fran DeBow returns passbook to her canine customer Cola Beers, 1972. (Wells Fargo Corporate Archives)

Wells Fargo Bank teller Fran DeBow returns passbook to her canine customer Cola Beers, 1972. (Wells Fargo Corporate Archives

Other dogs usually just visit for the biscuits tellers keep on hand.

Wells Fargo Bank teller provides a tasty treat to a visiting dog. (Wells Fargo Corporate Archives)

Wells Fargo Bank teller provides a tasty treat to a visiting dog. (Wells Fargo Corporate Archives)

Wells Fargo drive-up teller keeps dog biscuits on hand for her regular canine customers, 1976. (Wells Fargo Corporate Archives)

Wells Fargo drive-up teller keeps dog biscuits on hand for her regular canine customers, 1976. (Wells Fargo Corporate Archives)

 

First National Bank of Oregon drive-up customer receives a dog biscuit treat from the bank teller. (Wells Fargo Corporate Archives)

First National Bank of Oregon drive-up customer receives a dog biscuit treat from the bank teller. (Wells Fargo Corporate Archives)

 

On a side note, Cola wasn’t the only working animal with a bank account in Wells Fargo history. In 1963, Calico, the world’s largest spotted mule, visited the Wells Fargo office in Pacifica, California to deposit money earned for appearances at fairs, livestock shows and other enterprises.

Calico, the world’s largest spotted mule, visiting Wells Fargo Bank, 1963. (Wells Fargo Corporate Archives)

Calico, the world’s largest spotted mule, visiting Wells Fargo Bank, 1963. (Wells Fargo Corporate Archives)

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15 years of innovation

June 24, 2015, is the 15th anniversary of the Commercial Electronic Office® (CEO®) portal. Wells Fargo launched the CEO portal in 2000, the first major financial services company to offer a secure, single sign-on portal, for mid-sized companies and large corporations to access and perform a wide range of commercial banking functions.

Wells Fargo CEO portal, 2000 (Wells Fargo Bank)

Wells Fargo CEO portal, 2000 (Wells Fargo Bank)

At Wells Fargo, there is a tradition of using the most up-to-date technology to help customers succeed financially—stagecoach, telegraph, and internet banking services. Early in the bank’s history, Wells Fargo offered commercial loans, to help finance the Overland Stage Line, Nevada’s Comstock mining businesses, railroads and other firms.

Wells Fargo began numbering commercial accounts in the mid-1950s, “the first step toward applying electronics to our bookkeeping.” Wholesale Banking operations expanded to 40 locations in 21 states by 1998, and in 2000 there were 292 offices.

Steve Ellis
Steve Ellis, now executive vice president and group head of the Wells Fargo Wholesale Services Group, is a talented maverick within Wells Fargo. With hair reaching down to his collar, Ellis abandoned suits for jeans years before business casual became the norm. Back in 1999, Ellis saw that the internet could reshape financial services and saw the future in teaming up with young, viable dot-coms, to become an online resource for the many financial activities that businesses needed.

Steve Ellis, 2004 (Wells Fargo Bank)

Steve Ellis, 2004 (Wells Fargo Bank)

In 2000, the dot-com boom was ending; and even if making everyday purchases on the Web hadn’t caught on, online business had. New applications and services would make banking easier and more secure for customers. Ellis began selling the idea that Wells Fargo needed to rethink how to work with business customers and to create a powerful internet team for Wholesale Banking. Mostly, this new model had to be fast. Wells Fargo’s top brass decided that Ellis was onto something, and that he was the guy to make it happen.

Commercial Electronic Office
Over the last 15 years, Wells Fargo has seen dramatic changes in technology and the way our customers do business. From the beginning, the goal was to make banking simpler for customers, to make it faster and easier for them to do business through the CEO portal. More recently, mobile technology has changed the way our customers work, and Wells Fargo launched the CEO Mobile service in 2007—the first major U.S. bank to offer a mobile app for corporate, commercial, and institutional customers. Today, Wells Fargo offers iPhone and Android versions of the CEO Mobile app and is committed to delivering mobile innovations that benefit customers.

Wells Fargo CEO Portal demo for tablet. (Wells Fargo Bank)

Wells Fargo CEO Portal demo for tablet (Wells Fargo Bank)

Businesses today are much more global than they were 15 years ago. The CEO portal and CEO Mobile let customers connect to their banking services worldwide.

Today, a large share of Wells Fargo’s Wholesale Banking customers use the CEO portal. The percentage of active mobile users has grown by more than 97 percent in the past year— and by more than 1,200 percent since 2010! There are more than 90 applications available through the CEO portal, including fourteen services through the CEO Mobile service.

Just imagine what’s next!

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