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WHY THIS? Wells Fargo Bank Paperweight

“Quirks” are the stuff of curio cabinets, shards of human invention, aspiration, and desire for certainty in an unpredictable and uncooperative world.  True “Quirks” are always interesting, but not necessarily distinctive. So WHY THIS Wells Fargo Bank paperweight?

Resonance: Our paperweight is a direct and verifiable link to the April 18, 1906, San Francisco earthquake. It was cast from the original door of Wells Fargo Bank’s fireproof vault which survived the 7.9-8.2 magnitude quake and resultant firestorm. The blaze consumed 28,000 buildings, including the headquarters of the then named Wells Fargo Nevada National Bank. Fortunately, the bank’s newly installed vault and the records hastily stored there survived intact. Because of the scope of the disaster, material connections to the actual events of 1906, such as our paperweight, are few.   

Authenticity: Elissa Bentz, Wells Fargo’s Corporate Historian, explains that in the mid-1970s employees and customers asked the bank to issue collectibles related to important moments in the bank’s history. Interest may have been fed by renewed pop cultural love of the West, an uptick in historical reflection centered around the national bicentennial celebration and the pending 75th anniversary of the 1906 earthquake. The bank started producing our paperweight in 1979, strictly controlling the smelting and re-forming processes for quality control and carefully stamping each unit with a date and serial number to guarantee authenticity. Ours is #147.  

Peculiarity: Objects like our paperweight and other “Quicks” from our standing collection highlighted below share a common peculiarity. They are almost always out of place, yet somehow universal. Like eccentric guests at a dinner table, they make interesting comments that only they fully understand and are best placed next to another example of the species. 

1 comment

  • What did the bank do with the paperweights?

    Gretchen Dykstra

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