|Stagecoach at the Wells Fargo Musuem on Montgomery St.|
Wells Fargo celebrates its 74th birthday today. Oddly, the company that has become closely identified with California and the West was founded by two men who rarely left New York.
As young men, Henry Wells and William Fargo were express messengers in upstate New York. John Butterfield was a stagecoach driver. In 1850, Wells, Fargo and Butterfield became partners in a delivery company called American Express.
Wells, a skilled dealmaker, was appointed president of American Exrpess. Fargo, the youngest of the partners became Secretary. Butterfield controlled the Board. Fargo, more aggressively competitive than his partners, frequently clashed with the older and more conservative Butterfield.
In early 1852, Fargo developed a plan to deliver mail and small packages throughout the the west. Predictably, Butterfield opposed Fargo’s plan, and got the American Express board to vote it down. Fargo enlisted Henry Wells to raise money to back a new company. On March 18, 1852, Wells and Fargo met with a group of investors in an elegant New York hotel to form Wells, Fargo and Co.
Both Wells and Fargo remained kept their positions in American Express while hiring others to develop their western venture. Each of them visited San Francisco only once -- neither had any love for the West. Wells crossed the Isthmus of Panama by mule to reach San Francisco in 1853, but only stayed three weeks before returning home. Fargo later served as mayor of Buffalo, New York.
The Wells Fargo Museum at 420 Montgomery Street is holding a free birthday party today from 1-3 p.m.