What is the history behind the founding of American Express?

by jaylin.bartell , in category: Banking and Credit , a year ago

What is the history behind the founding of American Express?

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1 answer


by andy , a year ago


American Express, one of the leading financial services corporations in the world, was founded in 1850. The company's history can be traced back to the consolidation of three different express companies during the mid-19th century.

In the early 1850s, Henry Wells and William Fargo established Wells & Company in New York, providing banking and express delivery services throughout the expanding United States. Recognizing the need for quicker, more reliable mail delivery in the West, these entrepreneurs later established Wells, Fargo & Company in California.

At the same time, another company called Livingston, Fargo & Company was operating under the leadership of Henry Wells' brother-in-law, Livingston, in the Midwest. In 1852, when Wells, Fargo & Company decided to expand their operations in the East, they collaborated with Livingston, and the three companies merged to form the American Express Company.

American Express initially focused on providing express mail delivery services, connecting both coasts of the United States through a network of stagecoaches, railroads, and steamships. Their primary business involved transporting valuable goods and documents, which required secure and reliable handling to ensure safe delivery.

As the company gradually expanded its operations, American Express introduced various innovations. It issued its first traveler's cheques in 1891, which created a safer alternative to carrying cash while traveling. In the early 20th century, American Express also introduced money orders and began offering international travel services to assist customers with transportation, accommodation, and other travel-related needs.

Over time, American Express adapted to changing market conditions and embraced new technologies. It played a crucial role during World War I by delivering goods, personnel, and communications on behalf of the United States government. During the Great Depression, the company faced significant challenges but managed to survive by diversifying its offerings and focusing on innovative charge card solutions.

In 1958, American Express revolutionized the payment industry with the introduction of the American Express Card – a charge card that allowed cardholders to make purchases on credit and repay the balance in full at the end of each billing cycle. This card further evolved into the iconic American Express Green Card.

American Express continued to expand its presence internationally and diversify its financial services. The company launched the Gold Card in 1966, followed by the Platinum Card in 1984, catering to a more affluent clientele. It also branched into investment banking, insurance, and other financial services.

Today, American Express is recognized as a global brand, providing a wide range of financial services, including credit cards, charge cards, travel services, merchant services, and banking solutions. Its history is marked by a commitment to innovation, customer service, and secure financial transactions, making American Express a trusted name in the financial industry.