Wells Fargo telegraph

On June 20, 1840, Samuel F.B. Morse patented the telegraph. It’s pretty safe to claim that the telegraph made business in America modern, and that it accelerated the pace of everyday life very quickly.

The telegraph was an important tool that Wells Fargo used to transact customer business. It was fundamental to Wells Fargo through the Express era, which ended domestically in 1918, but also banking well into the 20th century.

Wells Fargo telegraph ad, 1870s (Wells Fargo Corporate Archives)

Wells Fargo telegraph ad, 1870s (Wells Fargo Corporate Archives)

Morse was an artist who also had a passion for mathematics and science, including electricity. (Morse was Phi Beta Kappa.) His development as a painter of note was interrupted by his wife’s death, which spurred him to explore ways to communicate rapidly over distance.

Morse received his first patent (US Patent no. 1,647) for “Improvement in the mode of communicating information by signals by the application of electro-magnetism.” His elegant Morse Code, on his telegraphic device, became the standard of information, just as computers and their coding are today.

Soon after, business users of the telegraph enjoyed “a leg up” on the competition, as they got fast information on market conditions. (People didn’t use the telegraph, early on, for personal communication very much. That came later as the technology expanded across geography.) From multiple locations that opened whenever a new settlement needed basic financial services, to stagecoach networks, to the railroad, to the telegraph, Wells Fargo used  available technology to help customers succeed financially.  In the express business, service speed and reliability differentiated successful companies from the others. Social media, internet and Mobile banking show how Wells Fargo embraces technology today.

Wells Fargo History Museums have a working telegraph, so you could say we’re still using them for everyday operations.Oh!—and don’t forget blogging. It gets the word out, too.

Wells Fargo telegraph operator, Moray, Kansas. 1898. (Wells Fargo Corporate Archives)

Wells Fargo telegraph operator, Moray, Kansas. 1898. (Wells Fargo Corporate Archives)

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