The Express Companies Combine

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WHEN J. C. FARGO wrote his brief resignation, an era ended for American Express. It was typified by the sombre, dignified portraits of the former presidents that hung on the walls at 65 Broadway. The new president, George Chadbourne Taylor, made a symbolic gesture when he ordered the pictures taken down and presented to various institutions that wanted them.

Taylor was as different from his predecessor as any two men born in the same country could be. He was florid and handsome, with a long, beautifully shaped head and smiling eyes. He was physically quick, quick in judgment and action, a man who would jump up from behind his desk to meet one at the door of his office. He was quick, too, of temper; his anger was spectacular and his language scorching. A warm and friendly man who could curse you out for a mistake and make you love him while he did it. Once he said to Ralph Towle, who then headed the Travel Department, "Ralph, if you want to criticize or say an unkind thing to one of your employees, don't put it in writing. He'll get over it and be your friend if you do it in private in your office, but never if it is in writing."

Taylor got his first job as helper on an American Express wagon in Wisconsin at the age of seventeen. He had no pull with the company; no one reached down from above to give him a friendly lift. He rose steadily by hard work and ability and the force of his exuberant personality. He took the steps one at a time, from helper to driver to clerk to agent and on up. In 1892 he organized a new route for American Express over the M.K.T. and Illinois Central railroads. Towle says of his former chief, "Taylor was a past master of negotiation. He knew all the detail and was also persona grata with everyone. He was on the road all the time as vice-president and president, making friends for the company."

Part of Taylor's charm was the fact that he never grew up but remained a boy who would always take a dare. On one occasion he was attending a luncheon given in honour of his return as president to his home town of Milwaukee. The men were reminiscing and someone shouted across the table, "Hey, George, bet you couldn't drive a thick now."

Taylor's head came around with a snap, his eyes flashing at the challenge. "Who said that? Come on, boys!"

A telephone call summoned a fine two-horse express wagon. The president of American Express mounted the box and the officials stood in the wagon, thoroughly scared. Driving with superb skill, however, Taylor took them down the main street of Milwaukee at a full gallop.

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Parcels for the P.o.W's

Perhaps the most important service rendered by American Express was inaugurated by Assistant Director General W. J. Thomas. In October 1914 he concluded an agreement with the British Government for American Express to handle the shipment of parcels to British prisoners of war in Germany. Later, when the United States entered the war, this service was taken over by the International Red Cross, but it had no organization capable of handling the situation in the early days of flurry and improvisation. During the two and a half years when American Express had this responsibility it delivered thousands of tons of packages from home to the unhappy captives of the German Empire.

In addition, American Expressmen went into the prisoner-of-war camps and cashed drafts for British and French prisoners and made arrangements whereby they could receive money from home.

As long as the United States remained neutral, so did American Express, in action if... see: Parcels for the P.o.W's

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