Soon after gold was discovered in early 1848 at Sutter's Mill near Coloma, California, financiers and entrepreneurs from all over North America and the world flocked to California, drawn by the promise of huge profits. Vermont native Henry Wells and New Yorker William G. Fargo watched the California boom economy with keen interest. Before either Wells or Fargo could pursue opportunities offered in the West, however, they had business to attend to in the East. Wells, founder of Wells and Company, and Fargo, a partner in Livingston, Fargo and Company, were major figures in the young and fiercely competitive express industry. In 1849 a new rival, John Butterfield, founder of Butterfield, Wasson & Company, entered the express business. Butterfield, Wells, and Fargo soon realized that their competition was destructive and wasteful, and in 1850 they decided to join forces to form the American Express Company
Soon after the new company was formed, Wells, the first president of American Express, and Fargo, its vice-president, proposed expanding their business to California. Fearing that American Express's most powerful rival, Adams and Company (later renamed Adams Express Company), would acquire a monopoly in the West, the majority of the American Express Company's directors balked. Undaunted, Wells and Fargo decided to start their own business while continuing to fulfill their responsibilities as officers and directors of American Express.
On March 18, 1852, they organized Wells, Fargo & Company, a joint-stock association with an initial capitalization of $300,000, to provide express and banking services to California. The original board of directors comprised Wells, Fargo, Johnston Livingston, Elijah P. Williams, Edwin B. Morgan, James McKay, Alpheus Reynolds, Alexander M.C. Smith and Henry D. Rice. Of these, Wells, Fargo, Livingston and McKay were also on the board of American Express.
Financier Edwin B. Morgan of Aurora, New York, was appointed Wells Fargo's first president. They commenced business May 20, 1852, the day their announcement appeared in The New York Times
. The company's arrival in San Francisco was announced in the Alta California of July 3, 1852. The immediate challenge facing Morgan and Danford N. Barney, who became president in November 1853, was to establish the company in two highly competitive fields under conditions of rapid growth and unpredictable change. At the time, California regulated neither the banking nor the express industry, so both fields were wide open. Anyone with a wagon and team of horses could open an express company and all it took to open a bank was a safe and a room to keep it in. Because of its comparatively late entry into the California market, Wells Fargo faced well established competition in both fields.
From the beginning, the fledgling company offered diverse and mutually supportive services: general forwarding and commissions; buying and selling of gold dust, bullion, and specie (or coin); and freight service between New York and California. Under Morgan's and Barney's direction, express and banking offices were quickly established in key communities bordering the gold fields and a network of freight and messenger routes was soon in place throughout California. Barney's policy of subcontracting express services to established companies, rather than duplicating existing services, was a key factor in Wells Fargo's early success.Close Up of Vignette
Common Stock, specimen, late 1900’sPrinter: American Bank Note Company Dimensions:
8” (h) x 12” (w)State: DE-Delaware Subject Matter: Famous Companies
| Finance and Related
| Specimen Pieces Vignette Topic(s): Distinguished Gentlemen
| Stage Coach Featured Condition:
No fold lines, punch hole cancels in signature areas and bodies. Very crisp.