I recently stumbled upon a book written in 1949 called Wells Fargo: Advancing the American Frontier by Edward Hungerford. It offers a charming view into the early years of what is now one of the best banks in the world. And here are 10 interesting facts from the aforementioned book.
Fact 1: Wells Fargo Was Not a Bank
Banking was secondary on the Wells Fargo’s list of importance. The company’s primary focus in 1852 was providing delivery services to the people of California during the Gold Rush. The company even purchased the Pony Express that operated between St. Joseph, Missouri and Sacramento, California.
Fact 2: Panic of 1855 and Survival
The beginning of most financial fears that Wells Fargo experienced took place in 1855 when the conditions made it impossible for people to mine for gold. The panic made approximately two hundred businesses in SF to fail. One of these businesses was Wells Fargo’s greatest competitor, Adams Express. Despite all these problems, Wells Fargo’s financial position was strong enough. The Corporation didn’t even suspend its dividends that year.
Fact 3: Montgomery Street’s Fat Cat
The unbelievable profits and fruitful dividends from WF’s express operations helped the company earn a special nickname – the Fat Cat of Montgomery Street (equivalent to Wall Street in San Francisco).
Fact 4: First Serious Thread
At the beginning of the 1860s, Wells Fargo obtained all lines from the Missouri River to CA. It gave the company serious advantages over its competitors. When the transcont. railroad was nearing completion (1868), the shareholders got rid of all of the company’s stage lines.
Fact 5: Takeover
When the company’s stock lost its value, the California-based investors took over control of Wells Fargo. It was the moment when the company moved its headquarters from NYC to SF. WF got exclusive privileges on the only existing train at that time, which connected CA to the East Coast… It is because these same investors owned the Central Pacific Railroad.