Through December 22, Wells Fargo is running a contest where you can submit your own music video of the song, “The Wells Fargo Wagon” from The Music Man and you can win excellent prizes. In support of this contest — and in support of our Guided By History community — we got Steve Greenwood, curator of the Wells Fargo Museum in Portland, to write the definitive history of the Wells Fargo Wagon. OK, maybe not definitive. But a darn good one, anyway! (CR)
With Wells Fargo & Co.’s Express, shipments arrived in communities by stagecoach, steamship, or railroad. Express messengers delivered items to their final destination aboard wagons pulled by one or two horses. The famed Wells Fargo Wagon delivered goods of all sorts, from a grey mackinaw to some grapefruit from Tampa, as the song goes . The Wells Fargo wagon even delivered when a snow storm blanketed Salem, Oregon — the crew simply replaced the wagon wheels with sled runners.
Drivers were also alert for outgoing express. Instructions to drivers stated, “Wagonmen should never drive by call cards, but should stop and secure the shipment.” The red and blue diamond-shaped signs were familiar across the U.S. and became a Wells Fargo logo.
Wells Fargo has been a financial services company from the very beginning. But the lore of the Company and its central role in the growth of the nation is tied to transportation—stagecoach, railroad, Pony Express. The Wells Fargo wagon was a common sight on American streets as communities grew. It meant excitement, as the song demonstrates, because it brought goods from faraway places, helped businesses get the tools and money they needed, and tied local neighborhoods to world markets.