A Pocket History of ATMs

Wells Fargo has always delivered service to customers in innovative ways Click here to learn about third-party website links, from stagecoach and steamship, to telegraphic transfers of money, to today’s on-line banking. In l865, Samuel Bowles of the Springfield (Mass.) Republican Click here to learn about third-party website links described Wells Fargo as

the omnipresent, universal business agent…Its offices are in every town, far and near. It is the Ready Companion of civilization, the Universal Friend and Agent of the miner, his errand man, his banker, his post-office. It has grown very much into the heart and habit of the people.

The story of the ATM, a latter-20th-century “omnipresent, universal business agent,” demonstrates Wells Fargo’s ongoing development of faster, better, more convenient service.

Wells Fargo "Express Stop"ATMs go back a long way. In fact, the first mechanical cash machine debuted in New York City in 1939. But the “ATM era,” so to speak, would not begin for another generation.

In 1970, Wells Fargo installed Self Serv teller machines at a few branch locations. These early cash machines accommodated a specially-issued Wells Fargo Master Charge card and PIN number.

Because these were linked to credit card accounts, they probably weren’t precisely ATMS as we know them today. In 1976, Wells Fargo piloted ATMs with three Silver Service machines installed in Southern California.

In the summer of 1978, ATMs as we know them were introduced. Wells Fargo installed “Express Stop” automated teller machines in ten locations. Customers could make deposits, transfer money between accounts, and make credit card and loan payments seven days a week, 24-hours a day.

Wells Fargo added additional machines in the next few years — there were over 200 in 1981, many equipped for use customers with disabilities.

Midlands National Bank, Minneapolis (ca. 1976)Wells Fargo innovated with technology that made it possible to buy postage stamps and other conveniences at ATMs. (Hey, ski lift tickets were available from ATMs in the 90s!) In the new century, more customers are using ATMs for a wider range of financial services.

Envelope-Free technology at Wells Fargo ATMs means customers don’t have to have a pen handy or even key in a deposit amount — the machine sorts and counts the bills and verifies the amount. These machines can accept deposits of up to 50 bills in different denominations and up to 30 checks at one time.

Wells Fargo is the first bank to use that particular technology, and the first to get an ATM manufacturer to meet the requirement.

The latestAnd here’s one for ya: Wells Fargo’s most northerly ATM is in Barrow, Alaska. The most southerly ATMs (a Guinness Book of World Records record holder by the way) are at McMurdo Station, Antarctica. There are over 7,000 miles in between.

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2 Responses to A Pocket History of ATMs

  1. Dave says:

    Interesting. I remember when I was a little kid I used to see the ATM when I went to the bank with my Mom at the local First Interstate Bank (which eventually became a Wells Fargo) and it looked like the most technically advanced rocket science-ish contraption I had ever seen (this was in the very early 80′s, before I had ever seen a computer anywhere but star trek). I didn’t think it was something that regular people like us were allowed to use. I remember my mom didn’t trust the things because there wasn’t a real person she could talk to. I don’t know if she does yet because she is always at the branch when she has banking to do.

    On a totally unrelated topic, I was wondering if you had anything in your archives related to Mark Twain and Wells Fargo in any way. I have been reading alot of his writing as of late and I think he was in San Francisco at about the right time and I have read him referencing stage coach travel so I was just curious if there was anything interesting in the Wells Archives regarding him.



  2. Will says:

    I’m sure those ATMs aren’t exempt from your exorbitant fees

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