Wells Fargo (CA) (Images of America)

Those striking images of stagecoaches traversing rugged mountain terrain are no mere marketing gimmick, but part and parcel of Wells Fargo's storied past. When Henry Wells and William Fargo founded the company in 1852, the gold rush had already brought thousands of people to California and uncovered the largest amount of wealth then known to the world. Wells Fargo served a unique role as a banking, express or transporting, and mail-delivery agency. In 1857, the company helped establish the Overland Mail Company; in 1861, it operated the Pony Express; and in 1866, it put together a 3,000-mile network of stagecoaches running between California and Nebraska. Three decades later, Wells Fargo covered the nation over a web of iron rails. Miners and merchants, ranchers and farmers alike depended on Wells Fargo. The company always used the fastest means possible for its deliveries and fund transfers, whether by riverboat, ocean steamer, pony express, stagecoach, railroad, or the fastest method of all, the telegraph.