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The new company chose to retain the name of “Wells Fargo” and so this article also includes the history after the merger. North America and the world flocked to California, drawn by the promise of huge profits. California economy boom with keen interest. Company, entered the express business. 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. 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. 300,000, to provide express and banking services to California. The original board of directors comprised Wells, Fargo, Johnston Livingston, Elijah P. 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. Because of its comparatively late entry into the California market, Wells Fargo faced well-established competition in both fields. 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. In 1855, Wells Fargo faced its first crisis when the California banking system collapsed as a result of unsound speculation.
Wells Fargo, were forced to close their doors. Wells Fargo was one of the few financial and express companies to survive the panic, partly because it kept sufficient assets on hand to meet customers’ demands rather than transferring all its assets to New York. Surviving the Panic of 1855 gave Wells Fargo two advantages. Wells Fargo attained a reputation for dependability and soundness. From 1855 through 1866, Wells Fargo expanded rapidly, becoming the West’s all-purpose business, communications, and transportation agent.
Pacific Ocean and many stagecoach lines in the western states. In its early days, Wells Fargo participated in the staging business to support its banking and express businesses. But the character of Wells Fargo’s participation changed when it helped start the Overland Mail Company. John Butterfield, the third founder of American Express, was made Overland Mail’s president. From the beginning, Wells Fargo was Overland Mail’s banker and primary lender. As Overland Mail’s indebtedness to Wells Fargo climbed, Wells Fargo became increasingly disenchanted with Butterfield’s management strategy. As a compromise, Butterfield resigned as president of Overland Mail, and control of the company passed to Wells Fargo.
Wells Fargo, however, did not acquire ownership of the company until the consolidation of 1866. Wells Fargo’s involvement in Overland Mail led to its participation in the Pony Express in the last six of the express’s 18 months of existence. Overland mail and express services were continued, however, by the coordinated efforts of several companies. Waddell, ran a stagecoach line from Salt Lake City to Missouri. By 1866, Holladay had built a staging empire with lines in eight western states and was challenging Wells Fargo’s supremacy in the West.