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 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)

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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?


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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!

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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!

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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)

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Adopt a Native Elder Program

Mattingly Rochelle 2Rochelle is a Museum Assistant at the Wells Fargo History Museum in downtown Phoenix. She has been with the museum since 2011 after receiving her B.A. in History at the University of Arizona. She is a member of the White Mountain Apache Tribe and strongly believes in the traditions and rituals that make up the superstructure of her tribe. Rochelle is a hoarder of books, an apprentice to beadwork, and a lover of British television shows/B-films/bad music/photography, and of course all things history. This is Rochelle’s second post for Guided by History. (AW)



I first became aware of the Adopt-A-Native-Elder Program when the Wells Fargo History Museum in Phoenix received a traveling exhibit from the Wells Fargo Native Peoples Team Member Network.  Displayed was a framed picture of an elderly Dinè women with the words “Mend the Broken Circle.”  It was part of a Wachovia Employee Resource Network activity.  The VP and Engagement organizer arranged for a speaker from the Adopt-A-Native-Elder organization to explain their program and how it helps the elderly.

Image courtesy of the Adopt-A-Elder Program and John Aldrich

Image courtesy of the Adopt-A-Elder Program and John Aldrich

Many Native American Nations have their share of hardships and deprivations, especially native elders.  My grandparents were from a time when the Apache people still lived in wickiups and up to the 1980s they were living in a one bedroom shack that did not have indoor plumbing or electricity.  My grandmother’s sister relied on her husband’s income, but after his death she was alone, struggling to raise her grandchildren.  Today when I visit my reservation, I see many of our elders in poor living conditions.  Many live in rural areas and rely on others to take them shopping for necessities.

Linda Myers and Grace Smith Yellowhammer started the Adopt-A-Native-Elder Program in the late 1980s after becoming aware of the challenges of survival and cultural lifestyle changes of native elders.  The Program supports many elders, mainly the Dinè, which is the largest nation in the United States – many still live in traditional hogans in secluded areas.  Meyers and Yellowhammer began making food runs to reservations in northern Arizona and southern Utah.  Today the Program supports over 500 elders and provides more than just food.  The program in no way tries to change their lifestyle only provides necessities so they can continue to live in their traditional ways.

Image courtesy of the Adopt-A-Elder Program and John Aldrich

Image courtesy of the Adopt-A-Elder Program and John Aldrich

How do we begin to mend the broken circle?  September marks Wells Fargo’s annual Community Support Campaign, so I bring with this blog awareness to a program that runs on the generous donations of time, energy, and money of people who choose to become involved.  To learn more about this program, please visit their website



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American Red Cross and Wells Fargo

When disasters such as the earthquake in Napa Valley suddenly strike our communities, Wells Fargo supports the efforts of such long-established organizations as the American Red Cross to provide national and international disaster relief.  For over 125 years, the Red Cross has coordinated relief efforts to communities immobilized by disaster and supported our troops and their families.  Early on, Wells Fargo aided their efforts.

In 1909, a torrential downpour in northern Mexico resulted in flash floods with thousands becoming homeless overnight, many losing their livelihood when their farms were wiped out.  The American Red Cross representative was U S. Consul General Philip Hanna, who coordinated the donations from U. S. citizens to fund the relief effort and worked with the Mexican Red Cross to arrange for the delivery of food, clothing, blankets, and mattresses to the survivors.  A Red Cross hospital was organized where the sick received medical attention.  In the worst areas, there were no trains for weeks after the flood.  Wells Fargo lent its support by transporting food and Red Cross supplies free of charge to the victims of the flood and brought express shipments to the region free of charge for three months after the disaster.

Red Cross banner on motor truck (Wells Fargo Corporate Archives)

Red Cross banner (Wells Fargo Corporate Archives)

In 1916, the Red Cross launched a national campaign to boost its membership to a million members with the goal of signing up 100,000 members in New York alone.  Many of our wagons and motor trucks carried Red Cross banners that urged people to help by becoming members.  Employees displayed Red Cross cards in office windows and placed pamphlets on counters for distribution to the public.

After the United States entered World War One in 1917, the Red Cross stepped up its efforts to support our troops abroad.  Wells Fargo actively encouraged its employees to support the Red Cross and many took first aid classes and devoted their evenings to making bandages and other hospital necessities for the war effort.  By June 1917, almost 1,000 Wells Fargo employees in Chicago had joined the Red Cross paying a total of $1,110 in dues.

Wells Fargo wagon poster, 1917 (Wells Fargo Corporate Archives)

Red Cross banner (Wells Fargo Corporate Archives)

By December 1917, Wells Fargo’s Red Cross membership drive continued through the holiday season with a new banner hanging from our Wells Fargo wagons and motor trucks.  Coinciding with this public outreach, Wells Fargo bolstered its employee membership drive by publishing an ad in its Messenger Magazine that reached 10,000 offices throughout the U. S. and aboard encouraging employees to support the Red Cross.

“No Wells Fargo [employee] need be told of what the Red Cross is, or what it has done- nor about what it is doing to-day on the battlefields of the greatest war in history. While the Government sponsors it, the Red Cross depends largely upon public support, to enable it to carry on its merciful work in tending the wounded and alleviating the suffering right behind the firing lines. . .  It costs only one dollar a year to be a Red Cross member – your nearest Red Cross chapter will be glad to receive your application. A heart and a dollar are indeed all you need.”

Today, the American Red Cross continues the work it started a century ago because it’s in our history to step up and help our communities.  So, the next time you see a flyer for a blood drive 21 floors up, what should you do?   I’m going to take a break and support the American Red Cross.


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A Key to the Zoo

My husband has fond memories of visiting the zoo as a child and using his plastic Trunkey the Elephant key to unlock special talking storybooks, audio exhibits with fascinating information about the animals. My son was thrilled to continue the tradition recently getting his own key. He learned all about giraffes that day and insists on keeping it in the drawer with our house keys.

The Wells Fargo Corporate Archives has its own zoo key, too. In 1987 the Wells Fargo Foundation funded a grant for 33 new multilingual story boxes at the San Francisco Zoo that provided surprising animal facts in English, Spanish, Cantonese and Tagolog. Co-branded keys were distributed to the first 5000 kids who attended each day of the Storybox Festival. I was so happy to discover such a fun example of Wells Fargo’s legacy of community support. Do you still have an old storybook key from your local zoo?


Wells Fargo San Francisco Zoo key, ca. 1987 (Wells Fargo Corporate Archives)

Wells Fargo San Francisco Zoo key, ca. 1987 (Wells Fargo Corporate Archives)

Article from Wells Fargo News, August 20, 1987 (Wells Fargo Corporate Archives)

Article from Wells Fargo News, August 20, 1987 (Wells Fargo Corporate Archives)


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Maynard Dixon Country

Christopher Adix is Museum Assistant at our Wells Fargo History Museum in Phoenix. He also works as a tour guide at Taliesin West (Frank Lloyd Wright’s winter home and school of architecture). He lives in Scottsdale with his wife, three children and two dogs. When not working, Chris is camping and hiking, visiting other museums or vacuuming dog hair. This is Chris’s second post for Guided By History. (AW)

Chris Adix (Wells Fargo History Museum)

Chris Adix (Wells Fargo History Museum)

Maynard Dixon was born in Fresno, California in January of 1876.  Most of his life was spent in the southwest.   He began his career as an impressionist painter, and eventually became more of a modernist painter. He also did a series of social realism paintings, but mostly painted landscape scenes from the Southwestern United States.  One of his favorite places to paint was Zion National Park in southern Utah.  He maintained a summer residence in Mt Carmel, Utah for many years. For the past 15 years the restored home and studio in Mt. Carmel has been host to Maynard Dixon Country an art show-event, which brings artists and Maynard Dixon fans from all over to celebrate his life and work. This year’s event is being held on September 5-7th.

Maynard Dixon survived the 1906 earthquake in San Francisco and for many years had a studio on Montgomery Street in that same city.  He was instrumental in finding an architect for the Golden Gate Bridge. A mural painted by Dixon can be found at the famous Arizona Biltmore in Phoenix, and some of his works are currently on display at the Phoenix Wells Fargo History Museum. His final years were spent in Tucson, Arizona, home to the Maynard Dixon museum, where he passed away in November 1946.


"The Cowman", "The Sheepman".  Courtesy Wells Fargo History Museum, Phoenix

“The Cowman”, “The Sheepman”. Courtesy Wells Fargo History Museum, Phoenix

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Honor labor

As we approach the long weekend, we pause to salute everyone who works. Thanks, everyone—your labor makes us all better. Have a great weekend!

"Submarine" salvage machine arrives by Wells Fargo Express, 1915 (Wells Fargo Corporate Archives)

“Submarine” salvage machine arrives by Wells Fargo Express, 1915 (Wells Fargo Corporate Archives)

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