Lunchtime Tourist

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May 9, 2005 // UPDATED 1:54 pm - April 26, 2007
By: Linda Koutsky
Linda Koutsky

Wells Fargo Museum
South 6th Street & Marquette Avenue
Skyway level

We'll get to the history in a minute, but as any good museum-goer knows, the way to measure a collection's quality is by the gift shop!

The Wells Fargo Museum does indeed have a gift shop - a small one, tucked into a display case at the information booth - but it has quite a few treasures. And it's those trinkets that give you an overview of the collection's important pieces. For instance, rugged Pony Express drivers in the mid-1800s hoisted heavy wood trunks with iron straps, just like one in the museum. So who can resist a miniature trunk complete with stenciled lettering and leather straps for $21?

What is in this museum tucked in beside a busy skyway in Downtown's favorite building? Wells Fargo has a history that goes back to California's mid-1800s Gold Rush days. The company set up offices to provide a place to pick up mail, exchange gold nuggets for cash, open a bank account and meet a stagecoach filled with incoming relatives. A 15-day trip from Omaha to Sacramento cost $300. It may look romantic today, but coaches were packed with at least nine people inside and often as many more on the roof! A rare and beautiful example resides in the building's lobby.

Northwestern National Bank was founded in Minneapolis is1872. About 120 years later, it had grown and acquired so many banks that it bought Wells Fargo. The museum contains plenty of connections to Minnesota history, including a "bandit barrier" teller window installed just after a robbery by John Dillinger.

Be sure to see the exhibit cases that wrap around the second floor rotunda. For fans of the old Northwestern National Bank Weatherball, there's a scale model, plenty of souvenirs and a printed copy of the old rhyme. When you've seen it all, take home your own gold nugget for a mere buck.

LUNCH TIP: Consult your own bank account, then have lunch next door in Gaviidae: Morton's or Bruegger's.

Send your tips to thelunchtimetourist@hotmail.com.