February 19, 2015

Wells Fargo history museums celebrate communities

From the dawn of commercial banking in the 1700s to 19th-Century Wild West adventures, Wells Fargo history museums reflect a 163-year legacy.

Ever heard of Wyatt Earp and the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral? Step inside the Wells Fargo History Museum in Phoenix and Museum Manager Connie Whalen will show you the record in the cash book where Wells Fargo paid Earp for riding shotgun to protect stagecoach treasures in Tombstone, Arizona, back in 1881.

Wonder how the U.S. stock market and commercial banking began? Spend a few minutes with Curator Mandi Magnuson-Hung at the Wells Fargo History Museum in Philadelphia and look at canceled checks and other records from the Bank of North America, the nation’s oldest U.S. bank (and a Wells Fargo predecessor).

Film strip of six images showing Wells Fargo history museum artifacts

Such are the treasures found in the 11 history museums Wells Fargo operates in Alaska, Arizona, California, Minnesota, North Carolina, Oregon, and Pennsylvania — each reflecting the unique intersection of local and Wells Fargo history.

In 2014, the museums collectively welcomed a record number of visitors — 600,000 to be exact, says Beverly Smith, head of Historical Services for Wells Fargo. That total includes 1,000 school groups and 25,000 students.

The museums trace their roots to the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair, where Wells Fargo first displayed a stagecoach and other artifacts from the company’s early California Gold Rush years. The first of the 11 museums opened in San Francisco in 1927.

The Philadelphia museum, opened in November 2011, celebrates the history of banking and especially the Bank of North America. Chartered in 1781 and opened in 1782, an initial public offering of stock financed the venture — the nation’s first IPO. Wells Fargo and the Historical Society of Philadelphia are preserving the records of the nation-building bank in a three-year conservation project.

“Philadelphia is a city that really loves its history and considers itself the ‘City of Firsts’ so the story we tell here is focused on banking and its development over time,” says Mandi says. “Philadelphia really was the first Wall Street in America, and our visitors can see the canceled checks and other records from the nation’s first bank. How cool is that?”

At the Phoenix museum, which opened in October 2003, Connie loves to see the reactions museumgoers not only have to the connection between Earp and Wells Fargo but its 12 paintings by N.C. Wyeth celebrating the American West.

“People leave every one of our museums with a better understanding of role uniting East and West and the growth of our country,” she says. “Every one of our museums validate the fact that we’ve been around for more than 163 years and are just as involved in our communities today as we were then.”


Map showing Wells Fargo history museum locations
Map showing Wells Fargo history museum locations