Into Italy

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Into Italy

Into Italy

Traffic from Italy, while less dramatic, was fragrant and appetizing. The American Express office in Genoa handled bushels of chestnuts, tons of Italian cheeses, and gallons of olive oil. Because of the carefree banditry then rampant in Italy, the company hired special railroad cars and put armed guards aboard to move the more easily pilfered goods from the inland cities to the sea.

Other European countries helped to swell the tonnage moved by American Express with such of their products as required careful handling. Shiploads of lemons went from Sicily and Spain. The vintages of France, fine woollens from England, and fragile mechanical toys from Germany were part of the regular trade, while for anything out of the ordinary, from a camel to a coffin, American Express was quickly called upon.

In addition, the Foreign Remittance business was booming and there were large dealings in foreign exchange and securities.

An early coup brought off by Dalliba in 1902 was the negotiation of an agreement with the British postal authorities making the American Express Company Great Britain's semi-official agent for handling all its postal packages in the United States, which at that time had no parcel post. This was followed by similar agreements with France, Holland, and Hungary.

President Fargo was mightily pleased with this tremendous increase in foreign traffic, but he relented little in his opposition to the travel business. Dalliba, C. F. Thayer, and William J. Thomas in Europe, and a group of younger men in New York, like Harry Gee, C. 0. Smith, and First Vice-President Francis Flagg, were working for it. Howard K. Brooks of the horse-blanket advertisements was heard from again, urging extension of the tourist-agency business, to which Fargo replied succinctly, "There is no profit in the tourist business as conducted by Thos. Cook & Son, and even if there were, this company would not undertake it."

When Dalliba wrote from Paris that the Ticket Department was handling five thousand letters a day and needed more space for tourists, he got an icy blast from on high: "Enlarge your organization when the Express and Freight business crowds it, but let the tourists crowd themselves. J. C. Fargo."

However, bit by bit, the young travel enthusiasts edged the company into this field, to the acute annoyance of its competitors, who looked into the future and saw the shadow of a tremendous rival forming there.

Quite early, American Express became selling agents for European railroads and transatlantic steamship lines (westbound only). In 1909 announcements were printed to the effect that "rates and itineraries for tours in Great Britain and on the Continent will be furnished on application. . . ." That was a long step forward, but note that nothing was said about tickets and coupons - only rates and itineraries were promised.

However, 1912 saw American Express firmly established as a great travel organization, though even yet it did not admit the fact. That year the company was granted the agency of the London and Southwestern Railway and acquired a complete stock of European Rail, Lake and River tickets (Rundreise) through the Verein Deutscher Eisenbahnverwaltungen. So it was now equipped to issue tickets over the main routes of the European Continent. In addition, it organized a wide range of sight-seeing tours in Naples, Berlin, Paris, and London, covered by specially issued exchange orders. That meant that charabancs crowded with tourists actually were leaving from American Express offices.

But the president fired off one final blast: "We want it distinctly kept in mind at all times and in all places and by all the company's forces, that this company is not and does not intend going into the touring business."

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Dalliba's interests ranged far beyond the prescribed limits of his job. He became a founder of the American Hospital at Neuilly, a president of the American Chamber of Commerce in Paris, and the French Government awarded him the Legion of Honour in 1905. Before he retired he was the doyen of the American colony in Paris and the confidant, adviser, and friend of thousands of his fellow countrymen who were entangled in the dilemmas of a foreign land.

On that first trip for American Express, Dalliba made a whirlwind tour of company correspondents in the capitals of Europe, in the course of which he shrewdly assayed the advantages and disadvantages of American Express's opening its own offices abroad. He came home convinced that the ayes had it overwhelmingly.

Not only was Dalliba enthusiastic, but he succeeded in carrying his point with President Fargo. During the summer Dalliba sailed back and forth across the Atlantic as fast as the fine... see: THE INVASION OF EUROPE

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