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SEE AMERICA FIRST

SEE AMERICA FIRST

In 1935, New York, bought a controlling interest in the American Express Company. It put some of its own people on the Board of Directors of American Express, but in general left its management in the hands of the men who had the requisite experience and who had proven their ability.

This arrangement continued until the Securities Act of 1984 was passed, which forced the banks to divest themselves of their investment businesses such as Chase Securities. Since the principal holding of the latter company was American Express stock, it was reorganized as the Amerex Holding Corporation and now owns more than 99 per cent of American Express stock.

At this time Robert L. Clarkson became prominent in the affairs of the company and was elected chairman of the Board of both Amerex and the American Express Company. Though Clarkson knew little of the detail of the business of the American Express Company, he was a man of vast experience and great acumen in financial affairs. He immediately pitched into the task and, assisted by Ralph Reed, made an intensive study of its operation. They worked together nights and Saturdays and Sundays for almost a year, drafting plans which were to restore American Express to its pre-depression earning power - and more.

At this time Reed was vice-president and comptroller of the company. In 1936 he was elected executive vice-president and played an increasingly important part in directing its activities.

The decade of the thirties saw a great expansion of the company's domestic-travel business. Hitherto the emphasis had been on foreign travel; now, by inaugurating tours for all purses and publicizing the beauties and delights of travel in America, a large new group of Travellers was brought into being. Bert White, working under Ralph E. Towle and Sidney W. Holland, was largely instrumental in opening up this fertile field. He began work on it even before the depression.

White was a former railroad man who had been a divisional passenger agent on the Baltimore & Ohio. He came to American Express in 1928 as head of the Chicago travel office at 70 Randolph Street. It was far from an ideal location for a travel bureau. The company shared the space with the Railway Express Agency, and White, advising prospective patrons, often had to shout to make himself heard above the squealing of pigs, cackling of chickens, and brays, bellows, and barks from assorted livestock which Railway Express had corralled in the rear end of the building.

This indicates how little attention was paid to domestic travel at that time. There were no more than five or six movements out West a year, and eighteen people on a tour was considered a good crowd.

White's first coup was selling the Chicago Athletic Club on running a tour to Alaska for 120 people. Then he ran a special train to California to take Chicago doctors to the annual convention of the American Hospital Association. Two shiploads of Spanish-American War veterans were sent to Cuba and three hundred electrical workers to Miami. In addition to these special movements, the company began to build up its summer tours of the West. Even in the depression these held up well.


To Learn more about Ralph Reed - Click here

What next? Into Action

Into Action

Soon the calls began to come through. From San Francisco, We have £55,000 on hand. Will need £75,000 by Monday morning and £50,000 a day threafter." Los Angeles needed £55,000. Kansas City, £35,000. Portland, £35,000. Chicago, the distribution centre for the Mid-west: "We have only £30,000 on hand. Will need £290,000 Monday and £250,000 daily thereafter."

Florida, teeming with vacationists, was in the worst straits of all. There was a line of people nearly a mile long outside the Miami office of American Express. They were paid as fast as the extra tellers could count the money.

Through Saturday and Sunday and most of that week the officers of American Express sat around that table ascertaining the needs of the different offices, meeting unexpected emergencies, and ordering shipments of money. Many of them slept in the office. Young Fred Page acted as their confidential messenger and catered for... see: Into Action


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