Wells Fargo & Co
n 1852 Henry Wells and William Fargo opened an office in San Francisco to serve the Gold rush prospectors who needed to send their Gold east.
Within 15 years of founding in San Francisco Wells, Fargo and Company had absorbed or driven every serious rival out of business and had become the most important mail deliverer, bank, express agency, and stagecoach company in the West.
The name of Wells Fargo is well entrenched in Western history and was so well known that miners swore only "By God and Wells Fargo."
At one time they were so efficient in the mail business that they were charging only six cents for a letter, while the Post Office was charging 25 cents, and the Post Office demanded they stop undercutting their prices. In 1850 the two partners merged their businesses with an express company owned by John Butterfield, (who later on operated a stagecoach line) and the new company was called American Express.
The importance of Stagecoaches declined after the railroad linked up to the West, but Wells Fargo acquired railroad rights as it cut back its Stagecoach operations, and it lost its lucrative mail contract in 1895 when the Federal Government took over all mail delivery services. Henry Wells made one inspection trip to San Francisco to see the new operation in 1852, William Fargo never ventured west of the Mississippi.
At the peak of their operations Wells Fargo employed a large force of Police and Detectives and more or less stopped the robbing of its Stagecoaches, by capturing about 240 what were called "Road Agents" including the famous Black Bart.
The dark green strongboxes were a company symbol that was carried in 100's of Western movies. Wells served as president of the American Express Company for 18 years. He died in Glasgow Scotland, and Fargo became president of the American Express Company in 1868. Fargo was active in Buffalo New York politics, he was twice elected mayor.