Notes By H. B. Phillips | Vol. 1 | Adams – Burns

Appendix: Express Locals, from Filatelic Facts and Fallacies, April 1893

///Appendix: Express Locals, from Filatelic Facts and Fallacies, April 1893
Appendix: Express Locals, from Filatelic Facts and Fallacies, April 1893 2018-02-23T14:31:27+00:00

Express Locals, from
Filatelic Facts and Fallacies, April 1893

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Express Locals, from Filatelic Facts and Fallacies, April 1893

Filatelic Facts and Fallacies


Express Locals.


Few, if any, United States local stamps have as interesting and important a history as those issued by the express companies previous to the reduction in postal rates and the Government issue of stamps. The origin of the first letter express, its wonderful and rapid growth in popular favor, its exciting and successfull competition with the Government postal service, the great and beneficial results indirectly accomplished by it toward improving the mail service of the United States, its adoption and issuance of adhesive stamps and the ultimate surrender of its entire mail service to the Government are herewith related with historical accuracy.

In 1841, Henry Wells, the agent of Harnden’s Express at Albany, N.Y., suggested to George Pomeroy that it would pay to start an express from Albany west to Buffalo. The idea was acted upon and with Crawford Livingston as a third partner the Pomeroy & Co’s Express was started between Albany and Buffalo, running weekly trips and requiring four nights and three days to go through by rail, stage and private conveyance.

Pomeroy & Co. soon commenced running a river express on the Hudson between Albany and New York in conjuction with their western express. The latter had opposition; first, by the express of Pullen & Copp, then, in 1843, by Bailey & Howard, and later by Bailey & Jacobs, none of which remained long in the field, and all may now be classed with the long list of little known expresses of the United States that were engaged in the letter carring business in conjuction with their other express business.

The firm name, in the course of a year or two, was altered from Pomeroy & Co. Livingston, Wells & Pomeroy, and later when Pomeroy retired from the business, to Livingston, Wells & Co., which continued until the latter part of 1846, when, upon the death of Crawford Livingston, the style of the firm titls was changed to Wells & Co.

On April 1st, 1845, an express from Buffalo to Chicago was organized by Henry Wells, William G. Fargo and Dan Dunning, under the name of Well’s & Co.’s Western Express. This combination continued in existence about one year, when Henry Wells sold out his interest in the Western Express to William A. Livingston, and that concern assumed the name of Livingston & Fargo.

In 1849, John Butterfield and others organized an express to operate on the line of the New York Central Railroad. It was a joint stock concern and was styled Butterfield, Wasson & Co.’s Express.

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Express Locals, from Filatelic Facts and Fallacies, April 1893 - Page 2


Filatelic Facts and Fallacies.

Early in 1850, negotiations were entered into by Wells & Co., Livingston & Fargo, and Butterfield, Wasson & Co., for the consolidation of the three into one grand line. The result was a joint stock company called the American Express Company, the company of that title of to-day, although since that time changes have been made in the stockholders, first in 1854 when it absorbed an opposition, and again in 1860, when it invreased its capitol to $1,000,000.

Costar and other writers have fallen into the error that these concerns were in some way the predecessors of Wells, Fargo & Co. The historical facts are as given and while the same men, with some others, organized Wells-Fargo’s Express in 1852, the two companies are indepentent of each other, Wells, Fargo & Co. being an entirely new creation.

To revert to the question of adhesive stamps:

Probably the most important fact in Livingston, Wells & Fargo Co.’s history occurred in the year prior to the memorable reduction in postage by a law of Congress. It was the establishment of their letter express between New York and Buffalo.

The Postoffice was then charging 25 cents for a single-rate letter between these points. Livingston, Wells & Co., at the suggestion of Henry Wells, advertised to carry a single letter for 6 cents, and to sell twenty stamps(see Scott’s Nos, 1899, 1900 and 1901) for one dollar.

This enterprise, in defiance of the Government’s assumed preogative to monopolize the conveyance of letters, caused great excitement in the West. Public meetings were called, and resolutions passed by merchants and citizens generally not to send or receive letters by Government mail to or from any points where expresses run, until there was a reduction in the United States postage rates.

This letter express, started by Henry Wells, formed a connection with that of James W. Hale, between New York and Boston, and soon extended from Chicago to Bangor, Maine. The Government used every means to break it up. At Utica, New York, its officers arrested the express messengers daily, but in every instance citizens stood ready with bail-bonds, filled-out and executed, so they were enabled to go on with their letter bags without loss of time. Suits were instituted against it in various parts of the county, but the Government was defeated in every case.

The conveyance of letters at one-quarter the price charged by the Government, was the most profitable part of the express business, and Henry Wells made a proposal to Major Hobbie, the First-Assistant Postmaster-General, to take the entire mail service of the United States, including personal delivery free for 5c. per letter. The reply was “it would throw 16,000 postmasters out of office” – that was so, and what would the administration due without its postmasters? They constituted too important an element of party strength to be set aside by any postage reform movement. Of course, the proposition was rejected, but the resolute competition of Wells, Hale and others with the United States Postal Service, the reduction in charges and the adoption of the adhesive stamp, as a matter of convenience, were so generally sustained by the people in all sections of the country that Congress was ultimately compelled to pass a law reducing pastage rates, and in other ways improving its postal service. These changed conditions soon culminated in the first Government emission of postage stamps – the 5c. and 10c. values if 1847.

Thus the country owes to the men I have named, and to the express companies of their creation, one of the most important reforms that the business world has ever experienced in the United States. As soon as it was accomplished, Wells & Co. and Hale ceased their competition with the Government, and surrendered their mail business to the Post-Office Department.

H. B. Phillips.

Elk, Cal., February 25, 1893.