In March, Wachovia stores in New York converted to Wells Fargo. This was accomplished with a great deal of publicity. There were lots of events in New York to announce Wells Fargo’s return to the place it was born in 1852.
A month earlier, though, Wells Fargo returned to New Jersey, where there was much less hoopla. This is something New Jersey is probably used to, neighbor as it is to the Most Important Place in the Whole World. But Wells Fargo’s history in New Jersey is interesting in itself. Indulge me as I give a brief history of Wells Fargo in the Garden State.
In 1852, Henry Wells and William G. Fargo founded a new banking and express company to provide reliable financial and transportation services to customers on the frontier. This you know. And before completion of the transcontinental railroad in 1869, the company’s stages connected eastern and western states, and linked communities on the East Coast. In New Jersey, as everywhere, the popular stagecoach eventually gave way to the iron horse as railroads expanded throughout the nation.
In 1888, Wells Fargo & Co.’s Express became the nation’s first coast-to-coast express company, extending service across Mid-Atlantic states on the Erie Railroad. In Jersey, Wells Fargo opened offices in Englewood, Jersey City, Newark, Passaic, and 57 other locations—all part of a network of 2,500 offices nationwide. At 191 Market Street in Newark, Agent S.B. Toby offered express and basic financial services, such as money orders and transfer of funds by telegraph….
In busy railroad depots in Newark and Jersey City, Wells Fargo express teams handled tons of goods every week, from wholesale shipments to mail-order packages. Wells Fargo wagons were a familiar sight on streets throughout New Jersey, fulfilling the company’s advertised promise of lowest rates, undoubted security, and fastest time. In 1912, Wells Fargo experimented with using a different kind of horsepower—motor trucks—in Orange. The newfangled trucks performed well but didn’t quite replace the horse and wagon just yet.
In 1918, the federal government took over the nation’s express companies as a wartime measure. Wells Fargo signs came down at 10,000 locations nationwide, leaving Wells Fargo with one banking office in San Francisco. Since then, Wells Fargo Bank has expanded once again from coast to coast, returning to New Jersey just a few weeks ago.
Wells Fargo traces its banking legacy in New Jersey back to The Trenton Banking Company, founded in 1804. Before this bank opened for business in 1805, it first had to print its own supply of currency! The State Bank of Newark opened just weeks before the War of 1812 began. New Jersey and its pioneering banks contributed to the industrial revolution of the 1830s, which brought new factories and the canals and railroads to transport Garden State goods. An expanding economy created demand for additional banks such as New Brunswick Savings Bank and North Jersey National Bank of Jersey City, both founded in 1851. In 1888, The Real Estate, Safe Deposit, Trust and Investment Company of New Jersey opened for business in the state capital, shortening its name to Trenton Trust Company a few years later.
Starting in 1937, President Mary G. Roebling led Trenton Trust through four decades of growth. Roebling was the first woman to head a major commercial bank in the United States, and she introduced innovative customer services such as bank branches in commuter rail stations.
New Jersey banks became regional players, then interstate banking institutions. Trenton Trust eventually became part of CoreStates Financial Corp. Other Garden State banks joined First Fidelity Bancorporation, acquired by First Union in 1995. These powers soon merged with Wachovia Bank, then Wells Fargo in 2008.