American Merchants Union Express Company Stock Certificate 1869 - William Fargo
Great collector piece! Left vignette of a terrier and top vignette of steamship, cargo, and horse driven wagon. Issued and cancelled. Imprinted revenue stamp below the vignette. Very small tears on edges that could be hidden with matting. Measures approx. 9" by 12". Dated 1869. Signed by William Fargo as president.
Two options available:
(1) foxing on face and Fargo signature, cancellation stamp through Knapp and Ross, hole to the right of the top vignette
(2) cleaner certificate with blue oval stamps touching signatures, stain in left border with red stamp, no holes on piece
William George Fargo was born in Pompey in Onondaga County, New York on May 20, 1818. He was the eldest of twelve children of William C. Fargo (1791-1878). On April 1, 1845, along with Henry Wells and Daniel Dunning, Fargo organized the Western Express which ran from Buffalo to Cincinnati, St. Louis, Chicago and intermediate points, under the name of Wells & Co. Daniel Dunning withdrew from the company and in 1846, Henry Wells sold out his interest in this concern to William A. Livingston, who became Fargo’s partner in Livingston, Fargo & Company. In 1850, three competing express companies: Wells & Company (Henry Wells), Livingston, Fargo & Company (Fargo and Livingston), and Wells, Butterfield & Company, the successor earlier in 1850 of Butterfield, Wasson & Company (John Warren Butterfield), were consolidated and became the American Express Company, with Wells as President and Fargo as Secretary.
In 1866, Merchants Union hired away older companies experienced agents and invaded their territories. American Express suffered such losses in 1867 that for the first and only time in its history it failed to pay a dividend. On December 21, 1868, the four express companies (Adams, American, Merchants, and United States) reached a peace agreement, dividing the express and fast-freight business and pooling and distributing net earnings. American Express got the worst of the deal; Merchants Union acquired rights on railways that had been its bread-and-butter lines (the Hudson River and New York Central railroads) and lost its supremacy in the express business.In 1868, American Express was forced to merge with Merchants Union to form the American Merchants Union Express Company (shortened in 1873 back to the American Express Company). In 1868, upon the resignation of Henry Wells and American Express' merger with the Merchants Union Express Company, William Fargo was elected President of the American Express Company. He was president of the American Express Company until his death in 1881, at which point his brother, J. C. Fargo, assumed the presidency, which he held until 1914.
In 1882, American Express started its expansion in the area of financial services by launching a money order business to compete with the United States Post Office's money orders. Sometime between 1888 and 1890, J. C. Fargo took a trip to Europe and returned frustrated and infuriated. Despite the fact that he was president of American Express and that he carried with him traditional letters of credit, he found it difficult to obtain cash anywhere except in major cities. Fargo went to Marcellus Berry and asked him to create a better solution than the traditional letter of credit. Berry introduced the American Express Traveler's Cheque which was launched in 1891.
Traveler's cheques established American Express as a truly international company. In 1914, at the outbreak of World War I, American Express offices in Europe were among the few companies to honor the letters of credit held by Americans in Europe, because other financial institutions refused to assist these stranded travelers.
American Express became one of the monopolies that President Theodore Roosevelt had the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) investigate during his administration. The interest of the ICC was drawn to its strict control of the railroad express business. The solution to this problem came as a coincidence to other problems during World War I. In 1917, the United States suffered a severe coal shortage and President Woodrow Wilson commandeered the railroads on behalf of the US government. All contracts between express companies and railroads were nullified. The result was that a new company called the American Railway Express Agency formed in July 1918.
In the 1950s, American Express issued its first credit card, which caught on quickly in the booming postwar economy. In 1966, the company issued its first gold card, in an effort to cater to the upper echelon of business travel. Its platinum card debuted in the 1990s. During the 1980s, American Express embarked on an effort to become a financial services super company and made a number of acquisitions to create an investment banking arm. In mid-1981 it purchased Sanford I. Weill's Shearson Loeb Rhoades, the second largest securities firm in the United States to form Shearson/American Express. In 1984, American Express acquired the investment banking and trading firm, Lehman Brothers Kuhn Loeb, and added it to the Shearson family, creating Shearson Lehman/American Express.
In 1988, Shearson Lehman acquired E.F. Hutton & Co., a brokerage firm founded in 1904, this was merged with the investment banking business and the investment banking arm was renamed Shearson Lehman Hutton, Inc. However, when Harvey Golub became CEO of American Express in 1993, American Express decided to get out of the investment banking business and negotiated the sale of Shearson's retail brokerage and asset management business to Primerica. The Shearson business was merged with Primerica's Smith Barney to create Smith Barney Shearson. Ultimately, the Shearson name was dropped in 1994. In 1994, American Express spun off of the remaining investment banking and institutional businesses as Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc which after almost fifteen years of independence would file for bankruptcy protection in 2008 as part of the late 2000s financial crisis.