Of Ships, Shoes, And Elephants

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Adventures happen to Merrill because he loves them and seeks them, from the wood-and-paper cabins of the Japanese mountain people to the bazaars of Pakistan and the drawing rooms of the British. Nor do his tales lose in the telling, for he is a born spinner of yams who delights in embroidering homespun fact with the colourful threads of outrageous fancy. To such a man, a difficult - almost impossible - assignment in the transportation of queer cargoes from far, unlikely places is not a problem but a challenge and a joy.

"We arrange for the shipment of anything from a needle to an elephant, from anywhere to anywhere," he says.

Vice-Presidents Gerald K. Berkey and George F. Doherty, Jr., respectively, head the Foreign and Domestic divisions of this department. Berkey, an old-time expressman, came to American Express as a messenger boy in 1906, when he was fourteen years old, and rose step by step. Doherty is a young man with Irish charm and wit that make him immensely popular wherever he goes. He came to American Express in 1946, where his experience, gained as an executive of the George F. Doherty Company, has made him a great factor in increasing the domestic business of the Foreign Traffic Department.

Rundle of Travel, who has his own troubles, says of traffic: "The tourist business is a cinch compared to foreign forwarding."

That expression, "foreign forwarding," is the correct term for the role American Express plays in the movement of freight and express. The company conducts a world-wide import and export freight-forwarding business of goods of all kinds by steamship, air, rail, and motor truck This is not to say that it actually moves the goods American Express has played a minor role in the express business since 1918 But when American Express takes charge of a shipment it attends to all the manifold. details of dispatch and receipt, including booking steamship or air cargo space, placement of insurance, customs clearances, handling the financial papers and the vast complex of documents required by the laws of the different foreign countries. Some shipments never touch America at all. One such was the dispatch of three lots, each consisting of 150 cars on rails, from Germany to Turkey via Russian-held territory. This is how freight forwarding functions:

Let us suppose that Jean Giroux, a French textile manufacturer, orders a new loom in the United States and instructs the American manufacturer to forward it through the American Express Company. As soon as it receives the order, American Express goes into action. First it gives the manufacturer specifications for packing the loom. It then arranges for pickup, shipping clearance, cartage or lighter-age, ocean bills of lading, insurance, etc. In France, the Paris freight office takes over from ship-side, sees the loom through French customs, arranges railroad bills of lading and the ultimate delivery of the loom to Jean Giroux's factory door.

In all this, however, American Express has not taken any physical action. It has simply arranged the movement of the shipment to France with the different transportation companies involved and followed its course, making certain at every step that Jean Giroux's loom was being properly looked after and was moving toward him with the greatest practicable celerity.

This, of course, was a remarkably simple operation. Things get complicated when a shipment from Argentina goes to Iran, and the documents required by bureaucratic governments pile up. In order to cope with changes of rates and conditions and the laws that shift at the blink of a dictator's eye, the Foreign Traffic Department digests all the leading shipping publications of the United States and England. In addition it receives direct reports from American Express offices on the spot. All this information is filed so that the latest data on any country are instantly available.

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What next? The World Unified

The World Unified

As has been described, American Express followed the advancing armies of liberation, reopening in the cities they freed to supply banking services to the Army and to arrange leave tours of Europe for the G.I.s. The present large undertaking in Germany is the natural outgrowth of this policy.

Vice-President John L. Dowrick manages the difficult German operation. An American Express career man, Dowrick was a product of the first training school in 1920 and started in the Far East, where he remained until the 1930s. He was then given the important London office of American Express.

During World War II, Dowrick served with the United States Air Corps. He was mustered out in Europe and, without wasting time to come home, began opening American Express offices on the Continent. He conceived the idea for the German operation, which he has managed since its inception.

American Express operations in many countries are carried on by foreign... see: The World Unified

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