The study of Wells Fargo's (WF) operations in Mexico is difficult if not almost impossible to define due to the San Francisco earthwuake of 1906, which destroyed most of Wells Fargo's existing archives. What still exists in private holdings and other historical archives leaves many unanswered questions. To the student of history, it leaves a monumental task. Postal historians have written articles on Wells Fargo's Express operations along the Pacific coast and on the mainland of Mexico. In reviewing these articles, it becomes apparent that there are defined areas within Wells Fargo's operations in Mexico. These areas have been called "Periods" by collectors, and are represented by political changes and technological advances which brought about new policies in Wells Fargo's management of operations and administration concepts. In order to study Wells Fargo Express operations in Mexico, it is necessary to define the "Periods of Operations", and here is where the problem begins. Collectors in general agree that at least five (5) main operational periods exist. Some think that there are more "Periods"; these will be left, for now, as sub-periods to be discussed at another time.
The "First Period" is referred to as the "Forerunner Period" by collectors and this period includes all mail carrieda by Wells Fargo to anda from Mexico before Wells Fargo Express agencies and offices were established along the Pacific coast. It also includes areas outside the control fo these offices and agencies as they were being established.
|"First Period" Cover from San Francisco to San Blas with blue WF San Francisco and "PAID" ovals, along with a "2"|
reales due handstamp in black indicating that the cover entered the Mexican postal system
For years, Wells Fargo messengers and agents occasionally picked up and delivered mail along the Mexican coast and Baja California on their way from San Francisco to New York (via Panama) and back by ship. In most cases the mail leaving Mexico did not have any Mexican postal markings (with exceptions) and was passed to the Wells Fargo representative by person or forwarding agent. Mail sent to Mexico, often with only a person's name and town location as an address, was handed over to a forwarding agent or placed in the care of a representative of the addressee, to be delivered or picked up at a later time (sometimes even the addressee would be presente to receive the mail).
Dating this mail is difficult if the sender didn't date it personally. Wells Fargo, in most cases, didn't show the year in their canceling or receiving marks. Mail carried early in the First Period from Mexico by Wells Fargo usually had only a WF circular San Francisco receiving mark. Sometimes and additional forwarding agent handstamp or markings are found on this mail and occasionally another express company's markings or express label are also found on these folded letters or covers. Most of the mail I have seen from the early years of this period has been from San Francisco to Mexico with only an occasional letter from Mexico. Wells Fargo, at times, received this mail without full payment of charges and the result was a "COLLECT" in a rectangular box marking being placed on the cover indicating express charges are to be collected. In many cases the WF representatives would stamp the cover with a "PAID" in an oval to indicate express charges had been paid. The WF canceling devices used most on these covers in the First Period were oval in xhape and at the bottom of the oval, later on, said "MEXICAN TOUTE" or "MEX COAST MESSr" when being sent from Mexico. WF mail from the United States to Mexico in this period usuallt had an oval or circular WF San Francisco cancel and occasionally another office cancel from within the WF system.
Wells Fargo's main office in San Francisco was the sorting and transfer station for mail being received or shipped down the Mexican coast. During the First and Second Periods almost all WF in-coming and out-going mail to Mexico passed thru this office after being received or before being placed aboard ship. The First Period represents mail carried to and from Mexico after Wells Fargo began its express business in 1852 and outside control of the established WF express offices or agencies in Mexican coastal cities that started opening in 1860. The approximate ending date is 1863 with the opening of the WF office at La Paz, Baja California.