The Wells Fargo History Museum


145 West Adams Street
Phoenix, Arizona 85003


Monday through Friday
9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m


(602) 378-1852

Picture of the outside of the building taken September 2009, by the Wells Fargo History Museum.

Location Includes:

  • Replica stagecoach able to be sat inside.
  • Authentic stagecoach from the 19th century.
  • An art gallery
  • Interactive telegraph

The Wells Fargo History Museum is located between 1st and 2nd avenue in Downtown Phoenix. It opened October 3, 2003. It provides educational facts and things that you may interact with. It contains many note cards with objects that have in the past been used along with replicas. The information is all focused on the bank and its contributions from the past to now. An art gallery by N.C. Wyeth of his western-themed work.

Co-founders Henry Wells and William G. Fargo in the Wells Fargo Museum in Phoenix.


The bank of Wells Fargo was founded by Henry Wells and William G. Fargo. Wells and Fargo were in California during an economy boom. They started business in the East first. Wells was first the founder of Wells and Company while Fargo founded Fargo and Company. They merged with competitor, John Warren Butterfield, to create the American Express Company and moved West to prevent another competitor from claiming it all. They then started their own company to take on Adams and Company (later named Adams Express Company). March 18th of 1852, Wells and Fargo organized a stock company in California that they named "Wells, Fargo & Company". Their initial capital started at $300,000.

Authentic stagecoach from the 19th century.

The Stagecoach

Across Arizona, they had delivered mail, people and valuables. Connections were established by the people willing to make them where they were needed. In the 1870's, James O. Grant's stagecoach company was able to connect Los Angeles to Prescott. A Gilmer & Salisbury's stagecoach company went to a Phoenix settlement. Wells Fargo made sure to make arrangements to work them and others to ensure that their customers mail was delivered.

Close up picture of the replica stagecoach with Christmas decorations on top.

Display of gold and white quartz chunks discovered in Arizona. Pieces and more donated by the Phelps Dodge Corp.


Mining businesses depended on Wells Fargo to deliver machinery, to keep them going. It takes a lot of effort with machines and workers to mine for gold, silver and copper. To make money for these mining operations, the mine owners would sell their shares. Henry Wells invested in Salero Mining & Manufacturing Company and later was named their President.

Measuring precious metals has always been measured by using the troy ounce and everything else has been measured using the avoirdupois ounce. A troy ounce is 12 ounces per pound while the avoirdupois ounce is 16 to the pound. And everywhere else uses Frances metric grams.

1 troy ounce = 31.1 grams.

After mining, the precious metals would then be turned to bars and taken to an Assay Office to determine their worth. To do this, an agent(from Wells Fargo) had to have skill with a chisel, scientific instruments and heat. They worked closely with the towns assayer, who would test the dust, nugget or bars brought in and they determined the value. Accurate assays kept Wells Fargo customers happy.

The assay process starts by melting the gold into bars. Next, they cut a chip into opposing corners and weight it. The chips are then heated in bone ash cupels. Bone ash cupels normally absorb other metals when in use. They then pour nitric acid in the cupels to dissolve the silver, which leaves pure gold behind. The new weight of the gold is then compared to the original, which tells the percent of gold in the dust.

Group of miners posing with their lunch pails and Tommy candles. Original photo courtesy of the Arizona Historical Society.

Working phone on display, ready to use.


Elisha Gray and Alexander Graham Bell created a practical telephone, independently. Alexander Graham Bell beat Elisha Gray with the patent by two hours.

The Copy Machine

In Wells Fargo offices, a copy machine consisted of a heavy cast-iron letterpress, a bucket of water, pieces of linen and a bound book of tissue paper. How it was used, was that someone would place a written letter in iron oxide ink next to a page of tissue paper, then place them between a piece of damp and a piece of dry linen and then clamp it tightly in the letterpress. The ink would then "rust" onto the piece of tissue paper, making a copy of the letter.

Cashier window with working telegraph.


Wells Fargo has provided a way to conveniently send money, since 1852. Customers could send gold or currency, in a Wells Fargo treasure box and acquire a receipt. Their exchange notes were easily payable to distant city banks, for funds sent East and Europe. To ensure delivery, many copies were sent through different mail. Wells Fargo introduced money orders in 1885, which gained popularity quickly for their use of ordering goods from mail-order merchants. In 1903, they came up with traverlers checks for the migrant American.

Railways and Shipping

Wells Fargo became the first express company to offer nationwide service, in 1888. By 1918, it's ocean to ocean service had around 10,000 offices nationwide.  They did well to handle with care, its customers' business. On receipts, they mention that their shipments were "forwarded in charge of messengers, and by the swiftest trains, stagecoaches and steamers".

Wells Fargo established the use of refrigerated railroad cars to dispatch agricultural products. Phoenix's first big shipment was cantaloupe in 1898.

Around the mid-1880's, farming around Phoenix expanded due to the Arizona Canal Project. Streetcars in the new town of Glendale, were set to pick up crates of produce and deliver them to the local railroad depot. Which would save the farmers a trip to town.

Wells Fargo messengers watched over the treasure boxes filled with gold, money, parcels and packages, in specially-equipped express cars. Before they would arrive at a station, they recorded, prepared packages and sorted letters. This was later adopted into the U.S. Post Office.


The Wagon

A stagecoach or railroad connected distant places, but express wagons connected within town. They delivered directly to a customers' door and picked up packages where a specific was located.



Wells Fargo opened their first offices in the towns local general store.

Wells Fargo agents often served as a town's telegrapher, railroad agent and postmaster. While some were mayors, merchants, doctors or librarians. Offices kept remote mining towns in touch with the rest of the world by sending and receiving letters and packages by letter express. In larger towns, sending and receiving was done by wagon and messenger. Shipping benefited the West the most, to have money and goods sent home to family.

The first female agent was Mary Taggart, who ran the Palmyra, Nebraska office. Between the years 1873 and 1918, over 350 women were hired  to handle shipments of money, packages and valuables, as well as delivering mail, packing stagecoaches and trains and basic financial services.



Photo of the outside of the building from

Address, hours and phone from

Info on Wells and Fargo

Info from museum

Picture of authentic stagecoach by Ethanplaygames on Google

Picture of replica stagecoach by Csaba Jevtic-Somlai on Google

Picture of co-founders by Kayla Rawles on Google

Picture of gold and quartz chunks by Marissa Obrien.

Picture of picture of miners by Marissa Obrien.

Picture of telephone by Krstafer Pinkerton on Google

Picture of cashier window by Marissa Obrien