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Megan Schaack with the Wells Fargo wagon at the Wells Fargo History Museum in Des Moines
Megan Schaack with the “Wells Fargo wagon” in Des Moines
Megan Schaack with the Wells Fargo wagon at the Wells Fargo History Museum in Des Moines
Megan Schaack with the “Wells Fargo wagon” in Des Moines
History
October 31, 2016

Coming soon: Wells Fargo History Museum in Iowa

Wells Fargo’s newest museum showcases historic connections in the Hawkeye State and includes an art gallery featuring rotating works from the company collection.

A new Wells Fargo History Museum opens Nov. 10 in Des Moines, making it the 12th in a national network of museums that showcase the shared stories of Wells Fargo and U.S. history. The new museum celebrates Wells Fargo’s long history with Iowa — through interactive exhibits of prominent Iowans and a rotating art gallery — while also representing Des Moines’s future. The museum is a key component of the city’s Walnut Street revitalization plans. It is expected to attract more than 25,000 visitors each year.

The museum is located on the ground floor of the Financial Center building at 666 Walnut St., making it one of the future stops along the new Art Route, a 6.6-mile painted connector path that winds through downtown Des Moines from the State Capitol to Meredith Corporation. Wells Fargo contributed $50,000 as one of the Art Route’s major supporters.

Showcasing a shared history

The Des Moines museum features a Wells Fargo stagecoach and a Wells Fargo wagon as immortalized in “The Music Man,” the Broadway musical by Iowan playwright and composer Meredith Willson. The museum’s interactive displays also feature other prominent Iowans, including personal lending pioneer Jacob Levitt and Col. William H. Merritt.

Merritt was a newspaper editor from Dubuque who left the state in 1849 to search for gold in California. The Wells Fargo collection of Gold Rush-era correspondence includes a letter from Merritt about his life as gold miner. He wrote, “I returned from the mines the other day with seven hundred dollars which was obtained by the hardest labor man ever endured.”

“I’m personally really pleased about telling the great, deep story of Wells Fargo and Iowa, which has long been a central connection point for the U.S.,” said Beverly Smith, head of Wells Fargo Historical Services. “Wells Fargo was there from the beginning helping our customers and communities, and this new museum in Des Moines gives us a venue to continue to share that story and build new ones for the future.”

Des Moines is the first Wells Fargo History Museum to include a rotating art gallery. The opening exhibition will feature about 20 pieces from the Wells Fargo art collection by artists such as Andy Warhol, Alfred Stieglitz, and Helen Frankenthaler. Those pieces are among more than 4,000 pieces added to the collection after the 2007 acquisition of the brokerage A.G. Edwards & Sons, Inc.

Megan Schaack with the Wells Fargo wagon at the Wells Fargo History Museum in Des Moines
Megan Schaack and Kyle Johnson of Wells Fargo Historical Services install scales like those the company used during the Gold Rush.

“With the new museum, we now have the opportunity to bring this amazing art collection to Des Moines while being surrounded by Wells Fargo’s rich history,” said Shelley Hagen, the curator who leads Wells Fargo’s corporate art resources team.

The Des Moines museum is the first to open in Iowa and the newest museum for Wells Fargo since the openings of the Charlotte and Philadelphia museums in 2011. Wells Fargo first displayed a stagecoach and other artifacts from the company’s California Gold Rush at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair. The company opened its first museum in San Francisco in 1927.

Visitors at each of the 12 Wells Fargo History Museums will receive a collectible token upon arrival. The coin-shaped faux gold collectibles are unique to each U.S. location. The Des Moines token will be released in February 2017.

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