Where does your paper come from?

From the Wells Fargo Corporate Archives

From the Wells Fargo Corporate Archives

We use paper every day. Even in this digital world paper is still sometimes necessary for communication and business transactions. But before the computer era, everything had to be done on paper, calculations, business transactions, letters, checks, and a myriad of other things. But what exactly is that medium itself? How has it changed?

Most paper today is made from wood pulp, but that isn’t the only source of paper. Many fibrous plants make good sources of paper, including its original form, papyrus. Old paper can also be used to create new paper, this process of recycling has gained prominence in recent decades, but it has been done to some extent for several hundred years.

When the first banks in this country were founded, the technology to make paper by machine had not yet been invented. Wood pulp was also not yet the desired material to use. Paper was made from beating linen and cotton to a pulp, then pressing it into thin sheets by hand! The only mechanized step of the process was the creation of the pulp; men did the rest of the work. The pulp would be scooped onto a metal screen mold, pressed into felt, a press squeezed out excess water, and the paper was hung to dry. All this before you even wrote a check or a note!

From the Philadelphia Wells Fargo History Museum

From the Philadelphia Wells Fargo History Museum

A machine for making paper, known as the Fourdrinier machine, became available in 1803, although it would take several decades for paper mills to fully mechanize. The first machine became available in the U.S. in 1827. Also around this time wood became the main source of paper instead of fabric rags. These two changes in paper technology made paper cheaper, and more readily available, greatly increasing its use around the world. See one here.

Wells Fargo has recycled its paper since at least 1886! (For more information see this older Guided by History post). For making checks, Wells Fargo experimented with paper made from bagasse (byproduct of sugar cane milling) in the 1970’s, and changed to recycled paper in 1991. For more information see this older post.

Today Wells Fargo offers customers options to use less paper, such as online banking, mobile banking and Envelope FreeSM ATMs.

Be the first to comment

Discovering a Delaware anniversary

Alyssa BentzAlyssa Bentz, Wells Fargo Historian, is from Delaware; she grabbed this story from the inbox before any of of even saw it! All yours, Alyssa… (CR)

Being a Delaware expatriate, imagine my surprise and delight when we serendipitously found a new story of Wells Fargo’s history in Delaware.

It all started with a mislabeled picture. Historic pictures sometimes have names, dates, places, interesting anecdotes, and other notes scribbled on the back or margins. But sometimes, these notes are incorrect. A collector and friend of our department sent us a copy of this picture from his collection. On the back it had a simple designation as “Baltimore.” This made sense as an attribute, since we knew that the Wells Fargo stagecoach made an appearance in Baltimore to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Star Spangled banner.

Recently however, Marianne Babal saw a picture featured in an article discussing the stagecoach’s time in Baltimore, and realized that something didn’t make sense. The buildings in the two pictures were too different for them to be from the same event, possibly not even from the same city. Cue the research theme music.

Looking at the picture with fresh eyes, I realized that the building in the background of the picture looked familiar. It looked like the Grand Opera House in Wilmington, Delaware. I knew that our office in Wilmington was located on the same street as the Opera House, but we had no pictures of the office to use as a comparison. What to do? City directories are a great tool for historians. They list the addresses of businesses and people, giving a unique insight into cities in the past. Using a Wilmington City Directory, I was able to confirm details from the picture as present in Wilmington in the 1910s.

But this still left an unanswered question: Why was the stagecoach in Delaware? We discovered the answer in area newspapers which mentioned that the Wells Fargo historic stagecoach rolled through Wilmington on October 14, 1914 during a parade for the city’s “Old Home Week” celebration.

This October 14, I will be thinking of the 100th anniversary of Wells Fargo’s first stagecoach appearance in Delaware, while I have my own “Old Home” celebration by remembering my home state.

Click here to see when the stagecoach may be coming to your state.

October 14, 1914: Wells Fargo stagecoach appears in Wilmington, Delaware’s “Old Home Week” celebration (Wells Fargo History Museum. Used with permission.)

October 14, 1914: Wells Fargo stagecoach appears in Wilmington, Delaware’s “Old Home Week” celebration (Wells Fargo History Museum. Used with permission.)

Be the first to comment

Here, there, everywhere

As much as I love rich mountain scenery, with green forests and sky blue lakes, I am equally fascinated with desert scenery. What may appear as austere is actually filled with beauty, is where the hardiest have learned to survive.

This past summer I took a family trip through Elko, Nevada. I had heard so much about it and its history:

  • Connection with the Oregon Trail
  • Situated along the Humboldt River, Nevada’s longest river
  • A city formed by the passing of the transcontinental railroad
  • The railroad pulled commerce away from the earlier central overland route of stagecoach and Pony Express in the 1860’s.
Wells Fargo & Co. Express in Elko, Nevada, 1869. (Ryan Baum collection)

Wells Fargo & Co. Express in Elko, Nevada, 1869. (Ryan Baum collection)

Today, Elko is a business and supply hub anchored by its position on Interstate 80 and adjacent to the nearby Carlin Trend gold mines of Nevada. Despite its location on a major interstate, it still has the sense of being remote—a city in the Great Basin located over two hundred miles from its nearest large neighbors, Reno to the west, Salt Lake City to the east, and Boise to the north.

My family saw Elko as just another gas and overnight stop on the way back home. But I hurried to arrive early enough in the day to explore the Northeastern Nevada Museum. I was fascinated by the community’s history.

The original town site was founded only hours after the Central Pacific Railroad reached it in late 1868, on its path east toward the Golden Spike, and history. Almost immediately commerce within and across central Nevada shifted to the rail line: Towns like Eureka and Austin found their trade going north/south to railheads instead of east/west to Reno or Salt Lake City. As a regional supply point, Elko capitalized on this change.

With this change, Wells Fargo opened an express office in Elko. This cover shows a customer transaction in Wells Fargo’s Elko office in April, 1869—business was under way a mere four months after the town’s founding!

Wells Fargo and Elko-Mountain City pony express (Ryan Baum collection)

Wells Fargo and Elko-Mountain City pony express (Ryan Baum collection)

Wells Fargo in Nevada included a link with an independent “pony express” service between Elko and Mountain City, a mining camp to the north.

Wells Fargo has been associated with Elko since then. To serve customers in Elko today, Wells Fargo has three locations as well as connection via phone and internet. One location is on the Mountain City Highway, the same path taken by the Elko and Mountain City Express 140 years ago.

So even in what some consider remote or empty, the “desert” actually thrives with life and with business. It is where the heartiest endure—including Wells Fargo!

Be the first to comment

International Ad Help

In the 1970s as Wells Fargo was expanding international business, prints ads featured our stagecoach in iconic landscapes on various continents. It was depicted in front of a foggy Tower Bridge in London and the Hong Kong skyline, as well as rolling past Mt. Fuji in Japan and Chichen Itza in Mexico.

1974 WF International Ad, London

Wells Fargo International print advertisement, London, 1974 (Wells Fargo Corporate Archives)

1974 WF International ad, Hong Kong

Wells Fargo International print advertisement, Hong Kong, 1974 (Wells Fargo Corporate Archives)

1974 WF International ad, Japan

Wells Fargo International print advertisement, Japan, 1974 (Wells Fargo Corporate Archives)

1977 WF International ad, Mexico

Wells Fargo International print advertisement, Mexico, 1977 (Wells Fargo Corporate Archives)

I have had fun identifying the landmarks, though some are easier than others. The ad below gave me the most trouble. Can you identify which castle and locale was used? We had offices in Germany and Luxembourg. Castle aficionados and international followers, please help!

1970s WF International ad

Wells Fargo International print advertisement featuring ?? castle, 1970s (Wells Fargo Corporate Archives)

Tagged , , , | Be the first to comment

Gold in that Treasure Box!

Since 1852, Wells Fargo has provided convenient financial service. If a customer wanted to send cash—gold coin or currency—Wells Fargo made space in the treasure box, and issued a Money Receipt.

Wells Fargo treasure box (Wells Fargo Corporate Archives)

Wells Fargo treasure box (Wells Fargo Corporate Archives)

The company collectively referred to gold, silver, and gold and silver bullion and coins it carried as “treasure” and moved it around the country in treasure boxes. Indeed, the name “treasure box” was used by author Mark Twain and others of the time when discussing a boxfilled with gold and treasure on a stagecoach. In the mid to late 1800s, a treasure box didn’t only belong to pirates. The Wells Fargo “treasure box” was made of pine, rimmed with oak and reinforced with iron by A.Y. Ayer and Sons of San Francisco.

A.J. Ayer shop in San Francisco, ca. 1890 (Wells Fargo Corporate Archives)

A.J. Ayer shop in San Francisco, ca. 1890 (Wells Fargo Corporate Archives)

In the 1870s and into the 1880s, highwaymen continued holding up the stages. Their target was the Wells Fargo treasure box carrying gold and money. Filled with customers’ gold, money and important business, it rode in the front boot of the coach, protected by the “shotgun messenger.” Stagecoach robber Black Bart infamously directed his victims to “throw down the box” and would then proceed to make off like a bandit with the Wells Fargo treasure. Although the “Po8,” as he called himself, didn’t bury his gold, we know that other robbers did, much like we imagine a pirate might bury his treasure.

The treasure box demanded security in the form of a shotgun messenger or a canine. A dog on the treasure box graces the cover of Wells Fargo’s Directory of Agents and Offices for 1883 with the legend “alert and faithful.” In 1893, a Wells Fargo employee posed his bulldog puppy on top of a Wells Fargo Treasure Box at the Midwinter Fair in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park. Thereafter, the image of “Jack the dog” on the treasure box became a favorite of Wells Fargo offices around the country.

Built by the maker of the treasure boxes for the stagecoaches, the “safety trunk” later served the same purpose in the express car on the railroads. Today, original green and white painted Wells Fargo treasure boxes are on display at the Wells Fargo History Museums, including the one in Minneapolis.

Wells Fargo Express ad, 1878 (Wells Fargo Corporate Archives)

Wells Fargo Express ad, 1878 (Wells Fargo Corporate Archives)

Be the first to comment

Smart about Credit

A recent Wells Fargo survey shows that one-third of Americans worry more about finances than health. So just like regular medical check-ups, regular reviews of your credit can help keep you financially healthy. More about this at the Wells Fargo Blog.

Oct. 1 – Nov. 16, Wells Fargo customers can visit a banking store, or go online to wellsfargo.com/freecredit score , and learn how to get a unique access code to receive a complimentary, no-obligation consumer credit score and credit report. Wells Fargo is offering the service as part of our support of the American Bankers Association’s Get Smart About Credit program, a national campaign to raise awareness about the responsible use of credit.

Credit is what makes the financial world go ‘round. Wells Fargo’s history has stories of people using credit responsibly to improve not only themselves, but the people and industries they were connected with. Henry Wells, for instance, sent a message over the new telegraph line between Washington, D. C. and Baltimore after its completion in 1844. Wells was fascinated by the promise of the new technology; he invested money, and solicited funds from other investors, to establish the first telegraph lines in New York State.

  • Thirty-one year-old Jacob Levitt immigrated to America from Lithuania and sold tin products in rural Iowa. He recognized the need average people had for access to credit, and founded the State Loan Company in Des Moines, Iowa in 1897. In 1924, the company pioneered direct mail financing, offering “loans by mail.” The company Levitt started became Dial Finance (“Solving Money Problems is Our Only Business”), and became part of Wells Fargo in 1998.
Dial Finance ad, 19 (Wells Fargo Corporate Archives)

Dial Finance ad, 19 (Wells Fargo Corporate Archives)

  • After four years of difficulty, Andrew Smith Hallidie successfully demonstrated the first cable car in San Francisco in 1873. The Savings and Loan Society, now part of Wells Fargo, offered a loan that finished Hallidie’s fundraising efforts. The cable cars run to this day, and help define the City by the Bay.
  • Philo Farnsworth is recognized as the inventor of the television. In 1927, Farnsworth demonstrated the transmission of television signals after getting a loan from Crocker National Bank, which joined Wells Fargo in 1988.
  • Security Bank and Trust Co., an affiliate of Northwestern Bank Corp. in Minneapolis, loaned Elizabeth “Betty Wall” Strohfus money to take flying lessons. She put her bicycle up for collateral, and did not realize that it wasn’t enough; only later did she learn that the bank manager himself, impressed with her ambition, had cosigned the loan. Strohfus became a member of the Women’s Air Service Pilots during the Second World War, where she flew different aircraft and missions, and prepared pilots for combat.

Building and maintaining strong credit are important steps in achieving financial goals and financial success. Learning responsible money management habits can help consumers navigate life’s various credit stages. In addition to the online resources above, throughout the month of October, Wells Fargo team members will also be in classrooms and community centers teaching the ins-and-outs of credit in support of the American Bankers Association’s annual Get Smart About Credit program.

Here’s to your financial health!

Wells Fargo Bank brochure, 1950s (Wells Fargo Corporate Archives)

Wells Fargo Bank brochure, 1950s (Wells Fargo Corporate Archives)

Be the first to comment

New to the Archives: Gearing up for winter holiday season

Labor Day weekend had barely ended when I noticed Halloween decorations popping up in store windows, and before long the pumpkins and ghosts will be competing for shelf space with snowmen and New Year’s Eve party hats.

Someone else was already thinking further ahead…. In late August, an anonymous person in Michigan mailed the following item to the Wells Fargo History Museum in San Francisco - a Christmas Club deposit book.


Christmas Club Deposit Book, date unknown (Wells Fargo Corporate Archives)

Christmas Club Deposit Book, date unknown (Wells Fargo Corporate Archives)


In an era before credit cards were mainstream, bank Christmas Club programs encouraged customers to plan ahead for winter holiday expenses by saving money year-round. Regular twice-a-month deposits added up to a nice return when December rolled around.

Christmas Club Deposit Book, date unknown (Wells Fargo Corporate Archives)

Christmas Club Deposit Book, date unknown (Wells Fargo Corporate Archives)

Many end-of-year holidays involve traveling to visit loved ones, gift-giving and especially, enjoying communal meals! Are you counting down the days until your favorite holiday? What’s your plan to be ready in time?


Tagged , , , | Be the first to comment

Yes, Your Money is good here!

Have you ever thought about the money we use everyday? We all take for granted that anytime we walk into a store our money will be accepted, because all across the United States, we use the same currency.

Today’s currency is backed by the federal government, but that hasn’t always been the case. Back in the early days, there was no uniform paper money, every bank issued their own!

Courtesy of Wells Fargo Archives This is what currency from the Philadelphia Bank looked like

Courtesy of Wells Fargo Archives
Philadelphia Bank currency pre-1863

All currency was convertible into “hard” money (gold and silver coinage) if the customer wanted. However it was only redeemable if the bank had enough money in its reserve to cover. If a bank went out of business, its currency became worthless.

News traveled slow, which meant that your currency was probably only good in the city you lived in, it might be taken at a discount elsewhere (one dollar would only be worth 95 cents or less). It forced banks to develop correspondence relationships, and keep money on deposit at each other, so local currency could be obtained through exchange.  For more information about these topics see these posts. The Marathon Bank and this one on Wells Fargo’s relationship to Charter Number One.

This informal system became untenable during the Civil War. The complex financial requirements of the war required some sort of standardized system. The government began voluntarily regulating banks who participated in a national system.  Banks could still choose to be regulated by individual states, but then they could not participate in the new national currency, or conduct business with the federal government (a large amount of business even then).  In exchange for some basic federal oversight, the currency issued by each bank was standardized—although it still included the individual bank names.

Courtesy of Wells Fargo Archives This is what Philadelphia Bank's currency looked like after it became a National Bank

Courtesy of Wells Fargo Archives
This is what Philadelphia National Bank’s currency after 1863

Only with the creation of the Federal Reserve System was a true national currency created. Today the money you get in Anchorage, Alaska, at Wells Fargo is redeemable in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and anywhere in between, as Wells Fargo, and every store or bank in the United States.  Stop in the Wells Fargo History Museum today to learn more about the history of your own money!

Be the first to comment

Wells Fargo celebrates Fiesta Las Vegas

Each year, we celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month from September 15 – October 15 to recognize the contributions of Hispanic and Latino Americans to the United States.

This year we kicked off the celebrations by participating in the Fiesta Las Vegas parade and festival September 13 and 14. It was a fun two days where Latino Americans shared their colorful roots and customs, with food, dancing, music and a parade that featured our stagecoach.

Wells Fargo Stagecoach in the Fiesta Las Vegas parade (Wells Fargo Bank)

Wells Fargo Stagecoach in the Fiesta Las Vegas parade 2014 (Wells Fargo Bank)


The stagecoach will be coming to a few more celebrations throughout the month, click to see if we’ll be at yours!

Tagged | Be the first to comment

A Responsible Dog

Jack, Tig, and many other dogs have served as alert guards and loyal companions in protecting money for Wells Fargo. The image of a faithful dog guarding a treasure box became a universal symbol of security and service for the express business.

Mexico City (Wells Fargo Corporate Archives)

Mexico City (Wells Fargo Corporate Archives)

Dogs and their owners form a bond based on trust and responsibility.  I’ve showered affection and praise and sometimes voiced frustration with our family dogs. They got into everything, but were always part of the family. We formed an inseparable bond. Yet, sometimes a dog becomes separated from its owner never to be seen again, and no matter how extensive the search, the dog never comes home.

This is what one Oregon family thought after vacationing in Indiana.  In 1923, the Brazier family became separated from their beloved dog Bobbie and an exhaustive search proved unsuccessful. For Bobbie’s family, the car journey back home must’ve been very quiet.

Six months later, Bobbie showed up at the doorstep of the family restaurant having travelled over 2,000 miles through all types of terrain and weather conditions to return home. The story spread like wildfire through the press, and he became a celebrity known as “Bobbie the Wonder Dog.” Later accolades were inclusion in Ripley’s Believe it or Not and playing himself in the silent film Call of the West.

This weekend is Responsible Dog Ownership Day and all of us can reflect on what it means to be responsible dog owners, especially with those puppies that get into everything.

Rosie the Riveteer (Steve Greenwood)

“Rosie the Riveter” (Steve Greenwood)

Tagged , , | Be the first to comment