Saturday, May 23, 2009

Express Cancels: American Express

American Express started as an express mail business in New York State in 1850, founded by the merger of the express companies owned by Henry Wells , William Fargo, and John Warren Butterfield. Wells and Fargo also started Wells Fargo in 1852 when their partner Butterfield objected to American Express extending its operations to California. Wells Fargo cancels on the one cent battelship can also be found on this site.

American Express extended its capacity by affiliating with other express companies nationwide, including Wells Fargo, railroads, and steamship companies.

American Express was such a powerful monopoly by the start of the Theodore Roosevelt Administration that Roosevelt had the Interstate Commerce Commission investigate the company. The ICC was concerned by its control of the railroad express business. Little was done about the situation until World War One, however.
Early Amex printed cancels on the 1898s were made with serif lettering like that above.

Amex moved to sans serif lettering like the printed cancels in the block above.

Amex hand stamp on the 5 cent documentary.

Receipt of goods for shipment by Amex with 1 cent Franklin postage stamp overprinted I.R. (Internal Revenue) to indicate its use as a revenue stamp.

Woodrow Wilson commandeered the railroads to move soldiers, their supplies and coal, in 1917. Eventually, all contracts between express companies and railroads were nullified by the government and all existing express companies were consolidated into a single company to serve the country's needs. The result was a new company called the American Railway Express Agency, formed in July 1918. The new entity took custody of all the equipment and property of existing express companies (the largest share of which, 40%, came from American Express, who had owned the rights to the express business over 71,280 miles (114,710 km) of railroad lines, and had 10,000 offices, with over 30,000 employees). As a result, American Express would become almost exclusively a financial services company, with little left of its express business.

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