A Wells Fargo wagon and driver Ellsworth Dayhoff in Pasadena, California, circa 1903.
A Wells Fargo wagon and driver Ellsworth Dayhoff in Pasadena, California, circa 1903. (Wells Fargo Corporate Archives)

Wells Fargo in song

A Wells Fargo historian shares the company’s connection to the Broadway hit “The Music Man.”

January 27, 2017
Charles Riggs

Growing up in Mason City, Iowa, the musician and playwright Meredith Willson remembered Wells Fargo wagons delivering all sorts of goods to the townspeople — maple sugar, a gray mackinaw, or a crosscut saw. The feeling of excitement and anticipation stayed with him, and he wrote the song, “The Wells Fargo Wagon,” for his Tony Award-winning play, “The Music Man.”

The Broadway hit opened in New York City in December 1957; a movie version was made in 1962. In the show, musical instruments for River City’s marching band are delivered by “The Wells Fargo Wagon.” The arrival has the townspeople excited, wondering in song what else it is bringing.

An advertisement for Wells Fargo wagon maker, circa 1896.
An advertisement for Wells Fargo wagon maker, circa 1896. (Wells Fargo Corporate Archives)

The history of the wagon

Wells Fargo has been a financial services company since 1852, but the lore of the company is associated with transportation — stagecoach, railroad, and Pony Express.

Wells Fargo & Co.’s express shipments initially arrived in communities by stagecoach, steamship, or railroad. Later, express messengers delivered items to customers aboard wagons pulled by one or two horses. The Wells Fargo wagon was a common sight on community streets as America grew in the 19th and early 20th centuries. The wagons delivered all sorts of goods. And when a snow storm blanketed Salem, Oregon, the crew cleverly replaced the wagon wheels with sled runners.

A Wells Fargo wagon and team members in Salem, Oregon, 1909.
A Wells Fargo wagon and team members in Salem, Oregon, 1909. (Wells Fargo Corporate Archives)

The Wells Fargo wagon meant excitement, as Willson’s song recalls, because it brought goods from faraway places, helped businesses get the tools and money they needed, and tied local neighborhoods to world markets.

 
 
 

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