Internal control, 1860s edition – safes


(All photos by James Ulvog are from the Wells Fargo museum in Old Town park in San Diego.)

There are a few basics of internal control you will always hear from your CPA. The concepts have been around a looooong time.

Things like split access to the safe. Also, use storage containers that would reveal any unauthorized access.

Those concepts were used on the stagecoaches in the 1860s as shown at the Wells Fargo Museum in San Diego.

The strong boxes used to transport gold and currency were extremely rugged. You can see pictures above and below that I took while touring the museum last year. Several things are quite visible.

First, the boxes are extremely solid. It would take quite a bit of work to break into them. Any tampering would be obvious.  While making a 28 day cross-country run the driver might have time to break into the safe, but if he were to tamper with the box, it would be obvious instantly upon arrival at his destination. The receiving station could then immediately investigate the problem.

That is similar to the tamper-evident, non-resealable, heavy-gauge plastic bags that businesses and ministries use to make their deposits today.

Second, any such tampering would require collusion. The driver and shotgun toting security guard would have to work together since the driver would not have time to do it alone. Wouldn’t be impossible to keep something hidden, but the odds of covering up a scheme deteriorate when more than one person is involved.

Dual access is also something you will hear from your CPA regularly for the same reason.

Here’s another picture:


Third, an information placard on the wall said that only agents at the sending and receiving stations had keys to the locks. The driver was never given a key. That illustrates restricted access.

Today, you will hear your CPA asking about who has keys to the safe or who knows the combination.

Giving everyone in the office a key to the church safe would be like giving the lock key to a stage-coach driver.

First part of this discussion is Internal Control – 1860s edition – sealed containers.

The technology of tamper-evident containers has changed in the last 150 years, but the concept has been around a long time. Reminds us of King Solomon’s observation that “what has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 1:9).

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