“The Universal Friend and Agent”

Wells Fargo 160 yearsJust 13 years after opening for business, Wells Fargo had established its reputation in the West as the banking and express company that served the business needs of miners, merchants, and farmers. Wells Fargo became better known thanks to the writings of a newspaper editor from Springfield, Massachusetts. Samuel Bowles made a cross-country journey through the West in 1865, and sent letters describing the trip to the Springfield Republican. Bowles was such a nationally recognized writer that big name newspapers like the New York Tribune considered his paper “the best and ablest country journal published on the continent.”

Bowles had never visited the West and went on the journey with a fresh perspective. Seeing the extent of Wells Fargo’s business and the variety of services offered to customers was something new to him. Bowles wrote, “. . . there is no institution of the Coast that has interested me more than the Wells & Fargo Express. It is the omnipresent, universal business agent of all the regions from the Rocky Mountains to the Pacific Ocean. Its offices are in every town, far and near. . .”

Express companies in the East did not offer as many services as Wells Fargo, which exchanged miner’s gold for coin, sent money over long distances, and arranged for the delivery of gold, goods, and mail. By delivering newspapers from the East and California, Wells Fargo also played an important role in connecting remote mining towns with news from other parts of the country.

Ashland, Oregon (Click for larger image in a new window)Many examples stand out showing Wells Fargo’s commitment to its customers. In January 1868, the Columbia River froze andt steamers could not get through. Wells Fargo sent weekly messengers with mules carrying up to 100 pounds of express. When snow obliterated those trails as well, Messenger Thomas Cann cut his way from The Dalles to Portland, covering 114 miles in 3½ days.

Over 160 years, Wells Fargo has taken care of customers’ business needs by offering a variety of services in thousands of communities throughout the country. Bowles’ letters captured this idea of service when he declared that Wells Fargo was:

The Ready Companion of civilization, the Universal Friend and Agent of the miner, his errand man, his banker, his post-office. It is much more than an ordinary express company; it does a general and universal banking business. . .

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