Wells Fargo Bank Archive

I recently shot a job for Wells Fargo Bank Historical Services. They're publishing a book to document their incredible archive of historical artifacts from the last 200 years or so. It was rapid-fire photography all day for five days, but the Wells Fargo people and my crew (well, Emily Polar) were really great, and we had a lot of fun. I managed to geek out on objects as much as their archivists did. Here's a selection of the 90 plus objects we photographed:

Back before there was a consistent national currency.


Emperor Norton money. I love Emperor Norton. That San Francisco not only accepted Norton, but let him print his own currency makes it my kind of town.

The original Articles of Incorporation for Wells Fargo, signed by Henry Wells and William Fargo.


After I shot this coin, I kind of wanted to redo it, so I asked if we could leave it in the library (we were shooting in the library in their building) overnight. They said "No." and returned it to the vault. Later I found out it's worth two million dollars.

I love this thing. It's a Fire Grenade. It's loaded with chemicals, and you were to keep a set of them outside your house. If it caught fire, you'd toss these inside and they'd hopefully starve out the flames. I wished I'd had an hour with this piece, instead of 20 minutes.


This. This is hard to describe, but that's uh, San Francisco. Apparently back then it was a hollow hill, with a beach. I think that might be a jet-black whale on the right. Somehow, this painting managed to creep into the future and inform that whole late 90's Mission School thing.

The archive contains a number of mascot costumes, from much more recent times. The shoes and gloves, that is. The shirt is mine.