Wells Fargo has a long history dating back to the mid-1800s and the settlement of the West. The company grew through acquisitions and mergers with smaller banks and companies. In the 1990s, Wells Fargo merged with Norwest Financial to make itself one of the 10 largest bank holding companies.
Wells Fargo starts expansion by taking over Overland Mail Company in 1860. Six years later, Holladay Express was added.
Beginning of the Bank Giant
Wells Fargo merged with Nevada National Bank in 1905, Union Trust Company in 1923, then American Trust Company in 1960 to become Wells Fargo and Company.
Norwest Financial starts as a group of banks in the Midwest, forming an association called Banco, which was created just ahead of, and survives, the Great Depression of the 1930s. The association consolidates under Northwestern National and becomes Norwest by the 1960s.
Late 20th Century
Wells Fargo acquires Crocker National, Barclay's Bank and First Interstate Bank between 1986 and 1996 in the largest buyouts to date. Norwest acquires First Interstate of Wisconsin in 1990, followed by First Minnesota Savings Bank, then United Banks of Colorado in 1992. Norwest merges with Wells Fargo in 1998 and keeps the Wells Fargo name.
In 2000, Wells Fargo takes control of 10 bank holding companies and two mortgage companies. By 2009, Wells Fargo had acquired 119 companies in nine years, including failed Wachovia Financial.