Alyssa Bentz, Wells Fargo Historian, begins our celebration of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. (CR)
Every year in May, Wells Fargo celebrates Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. Guided by History has many of these stories (here, here, and here) and I thought it might be nice to recount this one.
It begins with a bouquet of flowers.
Cut flowers have a long tradition as a luxury object for city dwellers. While people in the country could pick wild flowers, people in the city were dependent on nearby suppliers to ship the delicate blossoms. Having fresh, cut flowers in your home on a regular basis was a way of showing that you had the extra income to buy such novelties. In the late 1800s, people in cities across the nation and around the world started to buy cut flowers in record numbers. As more people bought flowers, a new industry was developed to grow and deliver the delicate cargo.
In San Francisco, the market developed as immigrants from China, Japan, and Italy grew flowers in the surrounding areas and delivered the cut flowers to the city early each morning. Starting in the 1880s, the Japanese flower growers established a niche in the market using technological innovations to improve quality and importing new and rare flower varieties from Japan.
One of the most active immigrants in the budding (pun intended!) Bay Area flower industry was Sadakusu Enomoto. Enomoto immigrated from Japan with his brother Eikichi, purchased five acres of land in Redwood City in 1906, and started raising chrysanthemums for sale in San Francisco. Within ten years the number of chrysanthemum growers increased, causing oversupply in the local market. To save his business, Enomoto needed to find new buyers for his flowers. In 1914, Enomoto made his first out-of-state shipment of chrysanthemums.
Shipping flowers outside of the Bay Area required specialized care and equipment. The flowers needed to be packed carefully and shipped quickly to prevent them from bruising and wilting. Enomoto turned to Wells Fargo & Co.’s Express. The Company’s fleet of refrigerated rail cars, 4-day “Ocean to Ocean” service, and long reputation for service excellence, helped Enomoto start a new export industry for California.
This month, while Wells Fargo continues the ongoing work of supporting Asian American and Pacific Islander customers and communities, Guided by History likes to remember that our connection with Asian American heritage has deep roots. (Another pun intended!)