Serving and Supporting the Chinese American community for nearly 170 years

GBH Asian Pacific
GBH Asian Pacific
Chy Lung & Co.’s wholesale tea store in San Francisco was listed in Wells Fargo’s directory of Chinese businesses. Photo Credit: Wells Fargo Corporate Archives

The city of San Francisco has always been a special place for Wells Fargo.  In 1852, Henry Wells and William Fargo opened for business in what was then the gold rush port in Northern California, providing banking services and express/rapid delivery services for gold and other valuable items.  The company built trust and earned a reputation for dealing rapidly and responsibly with people’s money, and quickly expanded into new cities and mining camps in the West.

Wells Fargo’s relationship with the Chinese American community in the Bay Area extends back to these early days of the bank.  Some of Wells Fargo’s first customers were the tens of thousands of people that sailed from southeastern China to find their fortunes in the California gold rush.  While some returned to China, many stayed and made America their home, building railroads and canals that revolutionized transportation in the 1800’s, starting businesses, and helping to build U.S. cities and towns across the country.  Many customers turned to Wells Fargo to help them stay connected to loved ones and for their financial needs.

The bank continued to serve and support its Chinese American customers through times of incredible discrimination and racism, including the signing of Chinese Exclusion Act in 1882, the first federal policy in American history that banned a group of immigrants based on race and class.  Wells Fargo agents often acted as witness to testify on behalf of local merchants and businessmen who were their customers and worked to ensure they were treated fairly.

GBH Asian Pacific
Wells Fargo Superintendent William Pridham signed this 1894 affidavit for San Francisco customer Wong Yuen Ark, “that he may be permitted to return to this city to resume his business here.” Photo Credit: Courtesy of the National Archives, San Francisco

During these times of prejudice and animosity, Wells Fargo found ways to support its Chinese-speaking customers by producing a directory of more than 1,000 merchants in San Francisco; Portland, Oregon; and other major cities. The bilingual directories were designed to drive business to the merchants listed, some of whom were Wells Fargo customers.

The special connection between the Chinese American community in the Bay Area and Wells Fargo continued to strengthen as the region and customer needs continued to evolve and grow.  By the 1960s it offered offer specialized Chinese-language services to customers in four branches – Oakland, Sacramento, Stockton, and San Francisco, and a few years later, was among the first banks in the country to create a Chinese name – 富國銀行, which translates to “rich, country, bank” – to make customers feel comfortable and welcomed.  

Wells Fargo has continued to invest in the Bay Area Chinese American community and businesses to this day, including providing annual support for the Chinese Chamber of Commerce, and assisting the Chinatown Community Development Center’s mission to increase the availability of low-income housing in the area, among many other projects and initiatives.

The San Francisco Chinese Lunar New Year Parade and Festival in many ways epitomizes the longstanding relationship and support for the community and holds a special significance and meaning to Wells Fargo. Not only is it a chance to continue to celebrate with our customers, but also an opportunity to recognize and honor the deep connections and legacy that goes back nearly 170 years, to the very first days of the company. 

We look forward to celebrating and ringing in the Year of the Ox with you all, and wish you a year of happiness, prosperity, and success.