Most Wonderful Time

It is that time of year when celebration is in the air and the Wells Fargo History Museums around the country are celebrating with free events.

festive stagecoach on display in our Phoenix, Arizona History Museum

Festive stagecoach on display in our Phoenix, Arizona History Museum

More than 700 visitors stopped by the Wells Fargo History Museum in Phoenix, Arizona to meet Santa, and folks in Portland, Oregon brought toys to the Museum as part of the KGW Toy Drive. And if you were in the mood for a good old fashioned holiday, I hope you stopped by for Holiday in the Park at Old Town San Diego where visitors were treated to fun activities and strolling carolers.

But don’t worry- you haven’t missed all the fun! There are still a few more chances for you to join us.

Visit the Wells Fargo History Museum in San Francisco on December 17 from noon to 1 p.m. to listen to a holiday concert featuring the San Francisco City Academy Choir and the San Francisco City Chorus.

San Francisco City Academy students singing in our San Francisco History Museum, 2013

San Francisco City Academy students singing in our San Francisco, California History Museum, 2013

You’re invited to visit the Museum in Minneapolis on December 18 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. to hear the Wells Fargo Chorus sing seasonal favorites – and the Wells Fargo Wagon song-while making paper snowflakes, taking a winter themed museum scavenger hunt, and having a photo taken with Santa.

Minneapolis History Museum team with Santa

Minneapolis, Minnesota History Museum team with Santa

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A Time of Waiting, A Time of Giving

For children, the holidays are a time of anticipation and waiting – waiting for the tree to be decorated, waiting for the lights to go up, and, of course, waiting to open the presents.

One child would’ve had to wait until after Christmas Day to open her present had it not been for the foresight of Wells Fargo Agent Richmond Smith. On Christmas Eve 1884, the train carrying Wells Fargo’s express shipment was late coming over the snow-clad Sierras. One of the many packages that arrived in Reno, Nevada read “Please do not open until Christmas.” Smith realized that if the package was not delivered that night, a child would not have their present to open on Christmas Day.

Agent Smith sprung to the express wagon and urged the horse on as snow began to fall. Pressing on through the bitter cold and snow, Smith came to the package’s final destination – a lonely cottage at the end of a street. After loudly knocking, Smith was gleefully greeted by a little girl whose eyes brightened as she noticed the package. Her mother’s voice echoed down the hallway, “Is it Santa Claus?” And the little girl replied, “No, mother. It’s Wells Fargo!”

Wells Fargo delivered this doll to 4-year-old Ivan Session.   A century later, Ivan’s daughter, Jean Smith Dobey, donated Flossy to the Wells Fargo History Museum (Wells Fargo Corporate Archives).

Wells Fargo delivered this doll to 4-year-old Ivan Session. A century later, Ivan’s daughter, Jean Smith Dobey, donated Flossy to the Wells Fargo History Museum (Wells Fargo Corporate Archives).

Continuing our history of timely delivery, Wells Fargo’s stagecoach and Oregon’s team members delivered toys to children at a local elementary school as part of our efforts to publicize the Great KGW-TV Toy Drive.

Wells Fargo is proud to again sponsor the toy drive, a 30-year community tradition that has collected thousands of toys from around Portland to give to children whose families could not afford them. Wells Fargo’s banking stores participate by serving as drop-off sites. The toys will be collected and brought to KGW’s studio for sorting. KGW will then distribute the toys to nonprofit groups to give to children. Last year, more than 125 nonprofits received toys.

There’s still time to give. Through December 15th, you can drop-off a new, unwrapped toy at any Wells Fargo’s banking store in and around Portland.

Why keep a child waiting any longer than they have to?

Wells Fargo Team Member

Wells Fargo Team Member Scott Matulich with one happy child


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Ho! Ho! Ho! from the stagecoach

The holidays are here and our stagecoach will be bringing some cheer to almost 60 events this winter all across the United States. We’ve already rolled through places like Wheeling, West Virginia, Tooele, Utah and Austin, Texas. We can’t wait to see Denver, Colorado, Greensboro, North Carolina, Laguna Niguel, California and many more places. Click here for the full schedule to see if we’ll be stopping by your hometown’s holiday event. If we aren’t going to make it to your event this year, you can watch the stagecoach in our holiday commercial.

Austin, Texas - Chuy's Children Giving to Children parade

Austin, Texas – Chuy’s Children Giving to Children parade

the stagecoach decorated for the holidays

the stagecoach decorated for the holidays

I hope you and yours have a Happy Holidays!


Washington statehood

November was the 125th anniversary of Washington’s statehood when Congress passed legislation enabling Washington to become a state. The road to statehood patriotically began on July 4, 1889, when 75 elected representatives gathered in Olympia and drafted a state constitution that Washington citizens voted on and approved in October. President Benjamin Harrison signed the bill that made Washington a state on November 11th.

Before Washington was a state, Wells Fargo served the Washington Territory as early as 1857. At that time, most settlers in the territory lived west of the Cascade Mountain Range, on or near the coast. It was in coastal logging towns that Wells Fargo opened offices in Olympia, Port Townsend, and Whatcom Bay (present-day Bellingham).

Whatcom Bay, WA (Wells Fargo Corporate Archives)

Whatcom Bay, WA (Wells Fargo Corporate Archives)

Local merchants came to rely on Wells Fargo, and in many cases, Wells Fargo’s agents owned businesses. By 1859, Wells Fargo had opened for business in Steilacoom and Seattle, where the merchant Henry Yesler pulled double duty as a Wells Fargo agent. When Yesler arrived in the village of Seattle, he recognized the potential of the tremendous forests surrounding the town and built a sawmill, which became a main source of employment in the community.   Yesler arranged for the delivery of mail, packages, and the latest newspapers with news from the States. The Puget Sound Herald newspaper expressed gratitude in 1859; “Wells, Fargo & Co. were first in the field with letters and papers by the steamer, today. They have our thanks. . . “

During the 1860s, gold discovered around Boise-then part of the Washington Territory- brought miners and farmers to eastern Washington, and Wells Fargo opened an office in Walla Walla, an important supply point for the mines. Agent E. L. James purchased gold dust, took deposits, and offered convenient bank drafts and checks to make it easier to move money over long distances. Wells Fargo even shipped goods and letters for the military at Fort Vancouver and Fort Walla Walla. In 1863, Lieutenant William Hughes wrote to Lieutenant Colonel Maury at Fort Vancouver and asked “to receive reports of your progress from time to time, sent through the express of Wells, Fargo & Co., at Walla Walla.”

Railroads expanded business and settlement in the Washington Territory and greatly increased Wells Fargo’s ability to move customers’ money, packages, and mail. The Northern Pacific Railroad extended its track into Washington in 1883, providing a direct rail connection to points east. When Washington became the nation’s 42nd state, Wells Fargo had nearly 40 offices linked by stagecoach, steamship, and rail in such towns as Spokane Falls, Tacoma, and Yakima.

Colman Building in Seattle (Wells Fargo Corporate Archives_

Colman Building in Seattle (Wells Fargo Corporate Archives)

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Let’s Talk Turkey

Recently while perusing through the Wells Fargo Messenger I noticed that every year around Thanksgiving there was mention of the “Thanksgiving Turkeys.” In the mid-1880s Wells Fargo started a program where they gave team members a turkey for Thanksgiving.  Qualification for the turkey changed periodically; for instance, when the program began the turkeys were only distributed to married employees. That eventually changed to all employees, provided they worked for the company for six months prior to Thanksgiving.  However, the six month rule was overlooked when the company included the men who had been employed by The Baltimore& Ohio, the Chicago and Eastern Illinois Railroad and the Frisco lines that merged with Wells Fargo in July of 1914.  All those men were given a turkey, and “the men everywhere freely expressed their gratitude for the company’s appreciation of their loyalty and service-the underlying spirit of the presentation.”

How many turkeys are we talking about here? In 1915 Wells Fargo purchased 11,137 birds weighing 113,817 pounds, which cost $22,000.

Wells Fargo Messenger, 1915 (Wells Fargo Corporate Archives)

Wells Fargo Messenger, 1915 (Wells Fargo Corporate Archives)

Where did all these birds come from? According to a 1916 Messenger, “the turkeys…were purchased in Kansas, Arkansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, Oregon, and particularly in Texas—the greatest of all turkey states—where huge flocks 30 and 40 miles are not uncommon.”  I did not know that about Texas.  I have always thought of them as a cattle state, but turkeys?

Who bought all these birds? Well “turkey sleuths.” On the west coast, that was Agent Thomas Elliott who was “as famous a turkey gatherer as you will find from Maine to Mexico.  Each year just before Thanksgiving Day, he enters Oakland, Oregon, to examine the gobbler crop…”  In the east, turkeys were bought at locations as close to the divisions as possible.  “Agent L.J. Troja, who bought 1,425 ‘turks’ at Bolivar, Mo., for the accounting and Chicago departments.”  In other divisions the selection of turkeys was made by the superintendent, with the aid of agents at producing points.

Today, Wells Fargo no longer hands out turkeys to employees on Thanksgiving. That does not mean that they have stopped being generous.  All across the country Wells Fargo and its team members give back to the communities in which we live, work and do business.

Wells Fargo Messenger, 1913 (Wells Fargo Corporate Archives)

Wells Fargo Messenger, 1913 (Wells Fargo Corporate Archives)

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What’s yer ‘stache

Movember runs the whole month of November involving the growing of moustaches to raise awareness of men’s health issues, such as prostate cancer and other male cancers.

Movember is a campaign and comes with a few short “rules”:

1. Each mo bro must begin the 1st of November with a clean shaven face

2. For the entire month of Movember each mo bro must grow and groom a moustache

3. Don’t fake it. no beards, no goatees, no fake moustaches

4. Use the power of the moustache to create conversations about men’s health and to raise funds for prostate cancer, testicular cancer and mental health

5. Each mo bro must conduct himself like a true gentleman

I would think that if this campaign existed back in the day some of our team members would have signed up.

Andrew Christeson, life-long expressman. (Wells Fargo Corporate Archives)

Andrew Christeson, life-long expressman. (Wells Fargo Corporate Archives)

From Wells Fargo agent in old San Diego, José Estudillo advanced to elected office as California State Treasurer. (Wells Fargo Corporate Archives)

From Wells Fargo agent in old San Diego, José Estudillo advanced to elected office as California State Treasurer. (Wells Fargo Corporate Archives)

Louis McLane: naval officer, stagecoach man, bank president. (Wells Fargo Corporate Archives)

Louis McLane: naval officer, stagecoach man, bank president. (Wells Fargo Corporate Archives)

If you’d like to look like Louis McLane or some of our other historic team members, we created some moustache cutouts for you (PDF); I used the “Hackett” here. Ladies, we’re considered “mo sistas” and can have fun with this too. We’d love to see your moustache pictures, so share them with #shareyerstache .

"mo siter" with "Hackett" (Wells Fargo History Museum)

Me as a “mo sista” (Wells Fargo History Museum)

I’m not the only one at Wells Fargo that’s participating in Movember, over 350 other team members are growing moustaches to support Movember, see the video here.

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The Music Man – The Wells Fargo Wagon

On November 18, 1957, “The Music Man” opened its successful tryout run at the Shubert Theater in Philadelphia to rave reviews. This success prompted its move to New York City by mid-December that same year. It ran for an impressive 1,375 performances and won many awards including the “Best Musical” Tony Award in 1958. It also became a highly successful movie in 1962. Written by Meredith Willson, this fun, family friendly musical includes a catchy tune all about “The Wells Fargo Wagon.”

Album cover art for the original Broadway cast recording Music Man - Wells Fargo Wagon (Wells Fargo Archives)

Album cover art for the original Broadway cast recording (Wells Fargo Archives)

Picture the scene: small town River City, Iowa, July 4, 1912. A stranger arrives in town selling band instruments and music lessons. This quiet Midwestern town is not interested. Then the talk of the town turns to trouble in River City. Trouble that is going to find the young people. Trouble with a capital “T”. What can be done to save the youth of River City from this terrible Trouble? Our questionable hero, Harold Hill, has an idea: form a River City marching band. Then the youth will be too busy with their music lessons for trouble to find them. And just like that an order is placed for an entire band’s worth of instruments.

Near the end of the first act the instruments for River City’s marching band are set to arrive. They are being delivered by way of a Wells Fargo wagon. The arrival of the Wells Fargo wagon has the townspeople excited. Each person is wondering aloud what else it is bringing: maple sugar, a gray mackinaw, grapefruit, a bathtub, a crosscut saw, curtains or dishes or a double boiler, and more. And these are exactly the kinds of things Wells Fargo did deliver, every day.

Because Mr. Willson remembered Wells Fargo wagons so fondly from his boyhood, growing up in Mason City, Iowa. And, because that feeling of joyful anticipation stayed with him into adulthood, he wrote the song, “The Wells Fargo Wagon.” This song helps secure our role in delivering the west for generations of musical theater lovers!

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Meet El Toro

Meet El Toro, the latest addition to the Wells Fargo stable of ponies. The ponies are perhaps one of Wells Fargo’s most popular promotions since King and Billy first appeared in 2003. Each pony is named after a real Wells Fargo horse, and they all have stories. You can see the ponies and read more about their stories here.

Oldest Equine Veteran in our Mexican Service

Image from Wells Fargo Archives

El Toro (the bull) worked in Wells Fargo’s Mexico City office. After serving the company for a long time he was retired, but remained the favorite horse of the agents in Mexico City. They brought him out a few hours a week to stretch and keep his joints limber. In 1913 when El Toro was 27 years old, the Mexico operations were profiled in the Wells Fargo Messenger, our internal newspaper (many of our posts are based on this rich resource, and about its use as an educational document)

Image from Wells Fargo Archives

Image from Wells Fargo Archives

Wells Fargo’s operations in Mexico were significant, with over 750 offices, headquartered in Mexico City. Encompassing just about everything they did in the United States and more. The company even functioned as a commercial matchmaker, publishing a guidebook that put American buyers in touch with Mexican sellers of all sorts of raw materials. The book also helped facilitate trade the other way as well. Finished products from the United States were sent to Mexico via Wells Fargo express. As in the United States, Wells Fargo offices also served as points where travelers could exchange travelers’ checks for currency, send/receive money, and get all sorts of travel advice.

So that’s my #WFpony story…and I’m sticking to it. Now it’s your turn, tell us yours! What sort of fun have you had with Wells Fargo ponies? Discover and share pony stories and photos in social media using hashtag #WFpony, or leave a comment here to share it with everyone.

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The art of the Stagecoach

It was once referred to as a “Cradle on Wheels.” Some call it a “wagon” (incorrectly!) Either way, the “Concord Coach” is certainly a beautifully hand-crafted, 19th century, formative means of American transportation. In Wells Fargo’s San Francisco History Museum, visitors can view a Concord Coach built in 1865. There is also an Overland Mail Co. stage from 1867 in the San Francisco Main Banking Store.

These Wells Fargo Stagecoaches are living symbols of the company’s heritage of service, stability and innovation. I also think of it as classical and elegant, in aesthetic and design. To me, they are also grand statements of American culture and history. In addition to its top-of-the-line quality and durability, the Concord Stagecoach, made by Abbot-Downing in New Hampshire, is a masterpiece of artistry and form.

I wonder how other people perceive the Wells Fargo Stagecoach. What do elementary school children see? When asked to draw the stagecoach, these are some of what they drew. Here are examples of what kids see in aesthetic and design.

Compared to the historical coaches in our Museums and Wells Fargo spaces across the land, I must say I do enjoy a brilliant green stagecoach with a blue driver box, and plenty of sunny seats on top!

Stagecoach art by Museum visitors (Wells Fargo History Museum)

Stagecoach art by Museum visitors (Wells Fargo History Museum)

Stagecoach art by Museum visitors (Wells Fargo History Museum)

Stagecoach art by Museum visitors (Wells Fargo History Museum)

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Follow up on Wells Fargo Agent Trustrim Connell

Bob Smith, accepting the award on behalf of Trustrim Connell  (Amanda Walters collection)

Bob Cox, accepting the award on behalf of Trustrim Connell (Amanda Walters collection)

In May 2012 I wrote a blog about former Wells Fargo agent Trustrim Connell and his Congressional Medal of Honor.   On Friday, October 24th I had the honor of attending The Arizona Veterans Hall of Fame Reception & Induction Ceremony which posthumously inducted Trustrim Connell.

Accepting the award on behalf of Captain Connell was Bob Cox, Secretary of the Pioneers’ Cemetery Association which operates the Smurthwaite House and the Arizona Pioneer Cemetery. The Smurthwaite House was once lived in by Trustrim and his wife Ann.  Dressed in an authentic  Civil War Union soldier’s uniform, Bob looked the part to accept the award and it was truly an honor to be invited to share in such a special moment.

My last post mentions that his medals are on display at the Wells Fargo Museum in Phoenix, and to update that information they no longer are. Trustrim’s medals are currently part of a traveling exhibit presented by the Arizona Historical Society and the Sharlotte Hall Museum, called “Above and Beyond: Arizona and the Medal of Honor”.  You can find out its current location by visiting the website.

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