The stagecoach is Wells Fargo’s icon. It’s our Brand, our corporate identity that represents our commitment to customers, that we’re with you now and over time. Branding has been part of Wells Fargo’s identity since the very beginning: historic documents and stationery show how Wells Fargo branded itself in the past, and how we identified the Company and supported customers.
The stagecoach transported people and bullion, and something equally valuable in frontier days—information, letters and newspapers. Initial envelopes transported by express companies simply bore a hand notation or cancellation of the express company to impart that the cover of the letter (envelope) had been paid and was departing a specific town.
The US Post Office was often unable to keep up with demand for mail coverage in the interior of gold rush California, but the post office steadily improved its Congressional mandate. A bill in 1852 further increased the Post Office’s ability to collect postage, by authorizing what we today refer to as “postal stationery,” envelopes with postage already printed on them. The authorization included firm wording, that any letters “delivered otherwise than by post or mail” shall pay government postage so long as it is “duly sealed…and the date of such letter….to be written or stamped, or otherwise appear on such envelope.” This clearly described any envelope (or “cover”) transported by an express company, including Wells Fargo & Cos Express.
Wells Fargo and other express companies normally carried sealed envelopes with their branding, and with date stamps to demonstrate timeliness. Indeed, customers used express companies as the faster option for time-sensitive correspondence.
Wells Fargo began using postal stationery on which they printed their own “frank,” to show the express charges had also been paid. This gave customers an all-in-one envelope that showed everything paid. Wells Fargo’s initial franked envelope in the mid-1850’s was a woodblock design on plain envelopes with postage stamps added. Shortly thereafter Well Fargo began to use postal stationery with a revised frank, whose essential design would be maintained for nearly forty years with only minor modifications.
Wells Fargo also had stationery for its own correspondence. Among my favorites is a shaded cover with an image of the building at Market and Montgomery Streets, headquarters from 1856 to 1876. The express and banking businesses had separate buildings over time, and stationery often displayed both. Just as business has not remained stationary over time, stationery also has changed.