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Wells Fargo History Questions

When was Wells Fargo founded?

Wells Fargo was founded March 18, 1852, in New York City.

Who were the founders?

Our founders were Henry Wells and William G. Fargo, and associates.

When did they open for business and where?

Wells Fargo opened for business on July 13, 1852, in San Francisco and Sacramento, California.

When did Wells Fargo become a bank?

Wells Fargo has been a bank since the beginning, in 1852.

Is there a way to look up relatives who may have worked as stagecoach drivers for Wells Fargo?

Wells, Fargo & Co. directly ran stagelines only from 1866 to 1869, from Nebraska to California, and north from Utah into Montana and Idaho. Wells Fargo's files of stage drivers are far from complete, and mostly list drivers in California and Oregon. There is also some information on drivers of the Cal-Oregon stagecoach company that Wells Fargo contracted with.

For most of Wells Fargo's staging history, independent locally-run stage lines carried the express. These stagelines advertised in their town’s business directories and newspapers, which are usually available at state and county historical societies and special libraries.

There were many Wells Fargo wagon drivers, delivering for the Company in small towns and big cities until 1918. There is no comprehensive list of them, however. State and county historical societies will have the best resources.

How do I find more information on stagecoach robberies?

First check for information in state and county historical societies and special libraries. Contemporary newspaper accounts of robberies were often very detailed, in contrast to Wells Fargo’s brief and businesslike notes.

Is there a way I can build my own model stagecoach?

The Oregon Historical Society in Portland, Oregon, sells a very nice set of plans for building a model stagecoach.

Please write to:
Oregon Historical Society Press
1200 Southwest Park Ave.
Portland, OR 97205-2483

Important: The name "Wells Fargo" and any representation of a stagecoach with "Wells Fargo" or variations on it is our corporate symbol and a registered trademark. Please do not use the Wells Fargo stagecoach commercially or publicly without permission.

Do you offer appraisals of Wells Fargo items?

Wells Fargo cannot offer value appraisals. Please see your area antiques dealers. However, we will provide what information we can if you send us a picture and whatever you know about the item.

Please write to:
Wells Fargo Historical Services
420 Montgomery St. A0101-026
San Francisco, CA 94163

For further information, you can check the book by James Bartz, Company Property, (the Westbound Stage, 1993), which you can order at

Did Wells Fargo produce belt buckles or chest badges?

From the 1960s on there have been many items produced by others as souvenirs of the "Wild West." Among them are Wells Fargo marked belt buckles (often marked on the back as made by Tiffany), chest badges, Bowie knives, brass body tags, and stagecoach plates. There are also many items with a brass shield saying "Property of Wells Fargo San Francisco Division," often attached to an actual antique. None of these were made by or for Wells Fargo.

In the 1970s, Wells Fargo did issue a commemorative belt buckle and a commemorative star-shaped badge. They are clearly marked on the back as copyrighted by Wells Fargo and Company.

How do I know if the Wells Fargo markings on an antique shotgun are real?

"Wells Fargo" marked shotguns have become a problem among collectors of antique firearms. In general, each town's Well Fargo agent bought weapons from local stores carrying whatever was available — it was not a central headquarters function. Just as with companies today, Wells Fargo's offices did not keep outdated records. Therefore, there are no comprehensive lists of Wells Fargo firearms.

Additionally, in recent years, many people have added "Wells Fargo" to actual antique weapons. All of this makes it very difficult to know whether any shotgun currently for sale was or was not used by Wells Fargo, regardless of the markings.

For further information, you may check the book by James Bartz, Company Property, (the Westbound Stage, 1993), for sale at

I have a silver bar stamped with Wells Fargo and dollar amount. Is it real or a souvenir?

These small bars are recently made souvenirs, and not made by or for Wells Fargo. Wells Fargo & Co. did ship large 100+ pound bars of silver from western mining regions. The bars, though, were marked with the mining outfit’s name, if they were marked at all.

I have a check or certificate, dated January 21, 1871, payable to Eliza Smith. Is it an original?

This is only a copy. It is on brown, parchment-like paper, with only black ink, and in the lower corner in small type are the words "non-negotiable." It was part of a pack of reproductions made by a museum store supply company some years ago.