Wells Fargo sponsors National Book Festival

Wells Fargo is pleased to return for a fifth year as a Charter Sponsor of the National Book Festival. The fifteenth annual National Book Festival will be held at the Washington, D.C. Convention Center from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. (doors open at 9 a.m.) this Saturday, Sept. 5.

Wells Fargo Historians in period costume. National Book Festival, 2014.

Wells Fargo Historians in period costume. National Book Festival, 2014.

Our Reading First activity area is expanded this year. Wells Fargo historians in period costumes will read and share a large assortment of children’s books, in both English and Spanish. Wells Fargo is pleased to be teaming up with Gallaudet University/ Gallaudet Interpreting Service, to provide ASL (American Sign Language) interpreters at this year’s Book Festival.

Some lucky kids will also get to read and learn about the Wells Fargo Ponies, and get to take home their very own plush pony.

Wells Fargo Stagecoach with Plush Ponies. National Book Festival, 2014.

Wells Fargo Stagecoach with Plush Ponies. National Book Festival, 2014.

Wells Fargo Hands on History activities are all new for 2015. Activities include a gold panning station, an area where everyone can meet the Wells Fargo Pony, and an Express Mail Center where kids can record all their fun at the festival, and send a post card home to friends and family.

The Wells Fargo Stagecoach will again make an appearance and will include an interactive area where kids can build a stagecoach bank and learn more about Wells Fargo’s history.

In the “Let’s Read America” exhibit area this year, festival-goers can take photos and win prizes, and record a testimonial in our video booth. Wells Fargo’s all new Together Experience invites festival-goers to participate in a virtual maze challenge interactive game.

The event is free and open to the public. Don’t miss it!

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Do the Math

August is efficiency month!

Efficiency has been a “buzzword” used quite a bit recently, almost too much, but the concept of being more efficient has been around for hundreds of years. Mathematical calculations have definitely been something that inventors have been trying to make more “efficient” for quite some time.

Today we use calculator apps, digital spreadsheets, and still some stand alone desk calculators to do this work for us. In the past, this was much more difficult work. Handwritten calculations were time consuming, took a lot of paper, and were prone to error. The slide rule, a prominent shortcut for complex calculations, required using complex formulas to achieve its work.

addingmachine_resizeAs time plowed on, new innovations for calculations came about. The oldest of these (and one you might have played with as a child) was the abacus with its series of beads on wires or placed in grooves.   My father even claimed that a colleague on an abacus was able to keep up while he used the mechanical adding machine. For calculations too complex for a desktop adding machine, bankeburroughs_resizers used the Burroughs. You can see adding machines of various sorts at most of our museums.

 

 

The mechanical adding machine and the Burroughs still required paper tapes, and complex mechanics to do simple calculations. Paper jammed, levers broke, significant hand strength was required to make it work, making a more efficient and simpler machine a priority. The continually shrinking size of computers led to the invention of the desktop and later pocket calculators. We keep this one by the museum desk for quick calculations.

calculator-resize

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National Watermelon Day

The dog days of summer are upon us and many parts of the United States are experiencing temperatures in triple digits. Summer is about high heat and finding ways to cool off. 250 Wells Fargo employees cooled off during the summer of 1916 at a “watermelon feast” outside Los Angeles that included athletic games, dancing, and music. Wells Fargo’s express business even transported watermelon. The Express Gazette mentioned that Wells Fargo shipped watermelon and cantaloupe as part of its daily “Melon Special” in 1906.

What made it possible for Wells Fargo to ship fresh fruit and vegetables from farms in the West to kitchen tables in the East? Refrigeration was the answer. Imagine a time when there were no refrigerators, and people had to eat fruit and vegetables right away or else it went bad. Refrigerators preserved food for longer periods of time.

Wells Fargo’s express refrigerator cars  (Image from Wells Fargo Corporate Archives)

Wells Fargo’s express refrigerator cars
(Image from Wells Fargo Corporate Archives)

In the early 1880s, rail lines reached everywhere, and ice-cooled refrigerated cars became common. Wells Fargo had 150 refrigerated railcars by 1913. With them, Wells Fargo developed markets for carloads of agricultural produce. At scheduled points heading east and west, Wells Fargo employees lowered large blocks of ice from the roof into cooling compartments at each end of the car. Wells Fargo even developed an experimental ventilation system on its express railroad cars that harnessed wind power rather than iced refrigeration. This made it cheaper to bring fruit and vegetables to the markets.

By 1913, Wells Fargo’s fleet of 150 refrigerator cars traveled 4.5 million miles, heading to Chicago and New York markets carrying strawberries, loganberries, raspberries, cherries, grapes, apricots, asparagus, lettuce, peas, beans, tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, and spinach. And, of course, Wells Fargo carried watermelons. Today, we celebrate National Watermelon Day; so, buy some watermelon on your way home. If you don’t eat it all, then it can always last a little longer in the fridge.

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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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