“Horsepower” is a term kicked around on TV commercials for cars and trucks, conjuring the sound of big engines and the feeling of acceleration. Hearing the word, most folks would not think about stagecoaches, or the sight of young Pony Express rider clinging to the back of a half-wild California mustang at full gallop.
But anyone familiar with the history of Wells Fargo should. Horsepower helped build Wells Fargo by making its express business possible.
Horsepower was first used as early as 4200 BCE, when human societies living in the grasslands of Eastern Europe domesticated the horse. Certainly these people, Sredni-Stog (PDF), used the horse for its milk, meat, bones, and hide. Humans riding horses, assuming they would have controlled them in the same manner as we do now (using a bit), didn’t happen until around 4000 B.C. But a few hundred years later, people used horses to draw wagons and carry loads—this, more than five millennia before the first team of horses was hitched to a Concord coach bearing the name Wells, Fargo & Co.
Wells Fargo recognized early on that its ability to deliver services reliably lay squarely on the health and well-being of its “equine employees.” Company stables in New York, Chicago, St. Louis, and Philadelphia, as a manner of business, delivered the absolute best food and care to its horses. Eight years was the average career of an urban express horse with Wells Fargo; equine heroes of stagecoach and Pony Express generally had fewer years.
But it was understood, during those years, that human and horse depended on each another for success—and each needed to care for the other. There are There are stories (PDF) of human Wells Fargo employees purchasing their equine coworkers upon retirement, to ensure that their relationship—and good care of the horse—would continue.
Each year Wells Fargo celebrates a horse from its past that can acknowledge the contribution horses have had to the Company’s success. In December, this year’s plush pony will appear in museums for purchase.
The history of horses is intertwined with human evolution for thousands of years, but the reality of today’s horse is one of severely reduced population and quality of life. Wells Fargo stagecoach driver Dan Cramer—along with entities like the Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary—are helping many horses retain their dignity.
Wells Fargo is a company that built its legacy on horseback of horse, and it’s wonderful that we have found ways to honor the “horsepower” of our past.