Early In The Morning Of Enterprise

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IN 1850 the tide of population was sweeping westward, carving a civilization out of the wilderness and uncovering the vast riches of the continent.

But not all the pioneers wore buckskin shirts or carried picks and shovels. Some remained at home to plan the future with daring and vision. Such was the group of men in beaver hats and broadcloth coats who gathered around a table in the Mansion House at Buffalo on March 18, 1850. Theirs was a mundane business compared to the adventures of the free-wheeling hordes who stormed westward. It concerned stocks, notes, rates, and contracts; all the trivia of finance. Yet these men, too, were pioneers despite their formal clothes and carefully trimmed beards. Their motive was mainly financial in the great tradition of free enterprises - as, indeed, were the motives of those thousands trekking westward - but the men in broadcloth saw a vision beyond the making of money, and in time their secondary purpose outran the first as they made their vision concrete in an organization that was to serve Americans - and people everywhere - for a hundred years, and, perhaps, a hundred and a hundred more.

The directors of the association they formed that day were:

Henry Wells New York

Johnston Livingston New York

John Butterfield Utica

James D. Wasson Albany

W. A. Livingston Cincinnati

William C. Fargo Buffalo

James McKay Buffalo

As James McKay wrote his copperplate signature at the foot of the page, he brought the American Express Company into existence. It was to outgrow his wildest reckonings and function in a world that was strange beyond the imagining of man in 1850.

The express business was not invented by the founders of the American Express Company, though they "rose early in the morning of enterprise." Its primeval origins trace back to the Persian couriers referred to by Herodotus, who stayed not for storm or sleet, and doubtless carried small articles of value in addition to the King's mails. The runners who brought fresh fish to imperial Rome were, in some way, expressmen; and the drivers of stagecoaches, who undertook to deliver parcels along their routes, were a closer approximation.

However, express, in the true sense of a private company engaging to carry goods, valuables, and money swiftly and safely to their destinations, is an American invention which antedates the American Express Company by a scant fifteen years. Just who thought of it first is a question on which historians disagree. One school, headed by erudite Lucius Beebe, credits L. B. Earle and his brother, B. D. Earle, who personally started carrying express between Boston and New York in 1835. Others give preference to Silas Tyler, who ran an express car on the short railway from Boston to Lowell, Massachusetts. But the man who really got the business going on a big scale was William F. Hamden, rightly known as the Father of Express.

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Howard Brooks

When he became president, Taylor put men of his own calibre in high positions. One of them was Howard K. Brooks, his devoted friend who had followed him all the way from Wisconsin to Chicago and on to New York. Brooks played an important role in shaping the American Express Company as it is today. He was an enthusiast for Money Orders, and he devoted immense energy to building up the Travellers Cheques. He also took a great interest in the foreign-exchange business. Though he had nothing but an elementary-school education, he wrote the first important textbook on foreign exchange in the United States and lectured on the subject at the University of Chicago. His imagination and initiative were powerful factors in building up the Travel Department, and he pursued his friend, George Taylor, until he accomplished this purpose.

It was Brooks who put American Express into the lucrative business of collecting bills for the public-utility companies. He suggested the... see: Howard Brooks

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