Express, a messenger or conveyance sent on any special errand, particularly a courier despatched with important communications. In the United States the word is applied to a system organized for the transportation of merchandise or parcels of any kind. This system was originated March 4,1839, when, agreeably to announcement published for several days in the newspapers, Mr. William F. Harn-den of Boston made a trip from that city to New York as a public messenger. His route was by the Boston and Providence railroad and the Long Island sound steamboat, which connected with that line. He had in charge a few booksellers' bundles and" orders, and some brokers' parcels of New York and southern and western bank notes to deliver or exchange-a service for which he charged an adequate compensation. Mr. Harnden proposed also to take the charge of freight, and attend to its early delivery, for which purpose he had made a contract with the above named railroad and steamboat companies, and was to make four trips per week. The project recommended itself to business men, especially those whose communications between the two cities were frequent.
It was particularly acceptable to the press, to which Mr. Harnden made himself very useful in the voluntary transmission of the latest intelligence, in advance of the mail. A year later (1840) a competing express was started by P. B. Burke and Alvan Adams, the ownership and sole operation of which soon devolved upon the latter. In 1841 Mr. Adams associated with himself William B. Dinsmore of Boston as his partner, and gave him the charge of their New York office. Adams and co.'s express was carried by the Norwich and Worcester route. In 1840 D. Brigham, jr., Harnden's New York agent, became his partner, and soon after went to England, where he laid the foundation of Harnden and co.'s foreign business. He returned in 1841, and in that year their line was extended as far south as Philadelphia, and west to Albany. A year or two later Adams and co. established E. S. Sandford as their agent in Philadelphia, and he became a partner in their business there. He also became associated with S. M. Shoemaker of Baltimore in an express from Philadelphia to Washington, D. C. About the same time Harnden and co.'s Boston, Springfield, and Albany express was purchased by Thompson and co., who gave it their name, which it still bears.
About the same period Gay and co., afterward Gay and Kinsley, commenced what is now known as Kinsley and co.'s express, running between New York and Boston, via Newport and Fall River. The express lines from Albany to Buffalo, and thence to the remoter west, were established by Henry Wells. The first express west of Buffalo was commenced in April, 1845, by Messrs. Wells, Fargo, and Dunning, under the style of Wells and co. It was disposed of two years afterward to William G. Fargo and William A. Livingston, who continued it, under the style of Livingston and Fargo, till March 18, 1850, when it was consolidated with the expresses of Wells and co., and Butterfield, Wasson, and co. The express line last named had been created about a year previous by John Butterfield. These three concerns, when united, were called the "American Express Company." William F. Harnden, the founder of the express business, died in 1848, leaving little or no property. In the mean time numerous short express routes and local expresses had come into successful operation throughout New England. Messrs. Pullen, Virgil, and Stone, who by their efficient services had contributed largely to the success of Harnden's business in its infancy, now started an express between New York and Montreal, and laid the foundation of the "National Express Company." Wells, Fargo, and co.'s California express was created in the city of New York in 1852. Adams and co.'s California express, established in 1849, was succeeded in 1855 by that of Freeman and co.
In 1854 Adams and co., the Harnden express (then owned by Thompson and Livingston), Kinsley and co., and Hoey and co. were consolidated in a joint stock institution, now famous as the Adams Express Company." The United States Express Company was commenced in 1853. It runs a through express twice a day to Buffalo, over the New York and Erie railway, and thence to numerous western cities, towns, and stations. Between New York and Dunkirk, and at all the stations upon its route, the New York and Erie railway company does an express business which was first established by the regular express company last mentioned. The Hope Express Company," the "New Jersey Express Company," and the "Howard Express Company," established as joint-stock concerns since 1854, were founded upon successful individual enterprises of some years1 standing prior to that date. They serve every part of New Jersey and Pennsylvania. The Eastern Express Company" also is a union of several individual enterprises, consolidated Jan. 1, 1857. Its principal office is in Boston, whence its lines diverge by various railroad and steamboat routes into Maine and New Hampshire. Fiske and co., and Cheney, Fiske, and co., are proprietors of expresses which have been very useful in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Vermont. Massachusetts is remarkable for the number of its expresses, the most of which have short routes, and are operated by individual enterprise; 238 run from the city of Boston alone.
The "American-European Express and Exchange Company," created in New York, July 1, 1855, was founded upon the business of Livingston and Wells, and Edwards, Sandford, and co. It sends and receives an express by every regular line of foreign steamships, and transacts business in London, Paris, and all the European cities.-The principal companies which are at present (1874) doing business in the United States are the Adams express company, the American, the United States, Wells, Fargo, and co., the southern express company, the national express company, the New Jersey, the eastern, the United States and Canada, and the Texas. The railroads covered by the expresses are about 60,000 miles in length, but as they are traversed in both directions and often several times each day, it is estimated that the express messengers travel more than 300,000 miles daily. The whole number of men employed in the United States by all the expresses is over 18,000, the number of horses is about 3,500, and the number of offices about 8,000. The amount of capital employed in the business is estimated as being not less than $25,000,000. The whole of this amount is not needed for the purpose of supplying material or for carrying on the business, and the larger part is held by the companies as a provision against any losses that may be sustained.
The public in its dealings with the companies has therefore the protection of a large guarantee capital in addition to the individual liability of the shareholders. Confidence is reposed in express companies to such an extent that in times of financial panic, when merchants and others have for the time lost confidence in their banks and bankers, they trust the express companies in their fiduciary capacity and make use of them for the purpose of making their remittances and collections. A peculiar feature in trade has grown out of express facilities, called the Collect on delivery business." Merchants whose wares are advertised or known now receive orders from strange firms in distant parts of the country to send goods to them by express, to be paid for on delivery. The merchant fills the order and sends the goods with his bill addressed to the consignee, marked C. O. D., and the amount to be collected, on the outside of the package. This is sent to its destination by the express company and tendered to the consignee, with the bill. Upon payment of the latter the goods are delivered to the new owner, and the money received is carried back to the consignor, who pays for the collection, while the consignee pays the freight on the package.
The amount of business transacted in this way is very large and rapidly increasing.