The Knights Of St Colombus

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The Knights of St Colombus

The Knights of St Colombus

The first large post-war special movement was the pilgrimage of the Knights of Columbus to Europe in 1920. A high point of the pilgrimage was to be the participation of the Knights and their families in the ceremony of unveiling a statue of Lafayette in the city of Metz, lately restored to France by the valour of American arms; and a peak moment of the ceremony was expected to be the placing of a truly magnificent wreath at the base of the statue as a gesture of friendship from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

On the day of the unveiling, the lovely lady who was to represent the great New England Commonwealth was on hand, but the wreath was not. Nor could any floral arrangement suitable to so important an occasion be found in that provincial city. At ten o'clock that morning a telegraphic wail reached Captain A. E. Williams at 11 Rue Scribe.

Like all good expressmen, Captain Williams was a man of both intellect and action. Springing into a wheezy taxi which was a veteran of the Battle of the Marne, he chugged to the Care St. Lazare, where he found the tribute from Massachusetts on top of a pile of miscellaneous freight - it had not been entrusted to American Express. Luck had rewarded Williams� first cast, but the wreath was still a long way from the statue of Lafayette.

Almost buried beneath it, Williams returned to his cab and ordered the driver to take him to an airdrome near Versailles. There he found one of the little woodland-wire planes of that era and a pilot who was brash-enough to think he could make Metz. Somehow Williams and his wreath were stuffed into the cockpit, and the plane clattered heavily into the air.

Over Ch�teau-Thierry, Williams was horrified to see oil streaming out of the plane's single engine. After a forced landing in a hayfield, where the pilot managed a temporary repair, they took to the air again for the honour of Massachusetts and the service of American Express.

At four o'clock that afternoon, like the messenger with the reprieve in an old-time melodrama, Captain Williams dashed through the crowd surrounding the statue and handed the wreath to the fair sponsor amid the ringing cheers of the assembled Knights and their ladies.

Throughout the early years of the 1920s the cruises, tours, and special movements sponsored by American Express multiplied rapidly. Thirty-seven new offices were opened in Europe, the Orient, and South America. But one country, Russia, which had known American Express service, remained beyond the pale. American Express, with all its new offices and services, was at last a worldwide organization. Emblematic of the new spirit of the company was its new flag and trade-mark adopted at this time. This was "a hemisphere of the globe in red and blue with white meridian lines, and in bold white letters the significant words, WORLD SERVICE."

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What next? American Express at Sea

American Express at Sea

American Express was first in the field to serve the travel-hungry American people. On January 27, 1919, a little more than two months after the Armistice, the company sent out the first post-war Caribbean cruise in the S.S. Pastores, "with every stateroom occupied." The first escorted tour to Europe after the cessation of hostilities went under the aegis of American Express in October 1919. The first Mediterranean cruise sailed in the Caronia under the joint control of the American Express Company and Thos. Cook & Son. The Cunard Line was the intermediary of this amazing marriage. Both companies had applied for a ship, and the Cunard officials replied, "We have only one ship available. Why don't you bury the hatchet and operate it jointly?"

This was the beginning of a new phase in the relationship of the two great travel organizations. They have always remained competitive; but since that time, although their rivalry has been keen, they often co-operate... see: American Express at Sea

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