American Express Co. Signed by John Butterfield and William G. Fargo - Stock CertificateInv# AG2390 Stock
During the 1980s, Amex invested in the brokerage industry, acquiring what became, in increments, Shearson Lehman Hutton and then divesting these into what became Smith Barney Shearson (owned by Primerica) and a revived Lehman Brothers. By 2008 neither the Shearson nor the Lehman name existed.
In 2016, credit cards using the American Express network accounted for 22.9% of the total dollar volume of credit card transactions in the United States. As of December 31, 2019, the company had 114.4 million cards in force, including 54.7 million cards in force in the United States, each with an average annual spending of $19,972.
In 2017, Forbes named American Express as the 23rd most valuable brand in the world (and the highest within financial services), estimating the brand to be worth US$24.5 billion. In 2020, Fortune magazine ranked American Express at number 9 on their Fortune List of the Top 100 Companies to Work For in 2020 based on an employee survey of satisfaction.
William George Fargo (May 20, 1818 – August 3, 1881) was a pioneer American expressman who helped found the modern-day financial firms of American Express Company and Wells Fargo with his business partner, Henry Wells. He was also the 27th Mayor of Buffalo, serving from 1862 until 1866 during the U.S. Civil War.
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) (formerly of New London, Connecticut) and Stacy Chappel Strong (1799–1869). His younger brother was James Congdell Strong Fargo (1829–1915), president of the American Express Company for 30 years. William's education consisted only of the rudiments taught in a country school as he left school at the age of 13 to carry the mail in Pompey and help support his family.
His father, who was born in New London, Connecticut, fought in the War of 1812. The elder Fargo was stationed at Fort Niagara and fought in the battle of Queenston Heights under General Van Rensselaer that resulted in the death of British General Isaac Brock. Fargo was wounded in right thigh, just before the Americans took possession of the ground.
His grandfather was William Beebe Fargo (1757–1801), who served with distinction in the American Revolutionary War, the son of William Fargo (1726–1813). His great-grandfather was the son of Moses Fargo (1691–1798) and the grandson of Moses Fargo (1648–1742), who was born in Lyons, France. His father Jacent Fargeau, had emigrated with his wife and children to Wales, from where Moses and his elder brother Aaron went to Norfolk, Connecticut in 1670.
At the age of 13, Fargo left school and started carrying mail for his native village of Pompey, New York. In the winter of 1838, Fargo started working with Hough & Gilchrist, grocers, from Syracuse. He remained there for a year until he went to work with the grocers Roswell and Willett Hinman. After three years, Fargo obtained a clerkship in the forwarding house of Dunford & Co., Syracuse. In 1841, he became a freight agent, an express messenger between Albany and Buffalo, for the Auburn and Syracuse Railroad in Auburn. A year later in 1843, Fargo was a Resident Agent in Buffalo, New York. He left the Auburn and Syracuse Railroad and joined Livingston, Wells & Co., as messenger.
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. At that time, there were no railroad facilities west of Buffalo, and Fargo, who had charge of the business, made use of steamboats and wagons.
In 1845, 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 William A. 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, upon the resignation of Henry Wells and American Express' merger with the Merchants Union Express Company, Fargo was elected President of the American Express Company. He was the company's president until his death in 1881, at which point his brother, J. C. Fargo, assumed the presidency, holding the post until 1914.
In 1852, Henry Wells and Fargo created Wells Fargo & Co. when Butterfield (and other directors of American Express) objected to the extension of its operations to California. The original Wells Fargo & Co. was created to facilitate an express business between New York and San Francisco by way of the Isthmus of Panama and on the Pacific coast. The new company offered banking services, which included buying gold and selling paper bank drafts, and express services, which included rapid delivery of gold and anything else valuable. The company opened for business in the gold rush city of San Francisco, and soon the Company's agents opened offices in the other new cities and mining camps in the West.
Fargo was a director and vice-president of New York Central Railroad Company, a director and shareholder of the Northern Pacific Railway, a director of the Buffalo, New York and Philadelphia Railroad Company, and a shareholder in the Buffalo Coal Company and the McKean and Buffalo Railroad Company. He was also a stockholder in several large manufacturing establishments in Buffalo.
In 1861, he was elected mayor of Buffalo, serving from 1862 to 1866, as he was elected to a second term in 1863. During his term as mayor, the Buffalo riot of 1862 took place. Fargo was a lifelong Democrat and stood against secession. He supported the Union during the Civil War by paying a part of the salary of his employees that were drafted.
In January 1840, Fargo married Anna H. Williams (1820–1890), daughter of Nathan Williams, one of the proprietors of Pompey, with whom he had eight children:
- Georgia Fargo (1841–1892), who died unmarried
- Alma Cornelia Fargo (1842–1842), who died young
- Sarah Irene Fargo (1843–1854)
- William George Fargo, Jr. (1845–1872), who married Minerva Elizabeth Prendergast (1848–1873)
- Hannah Sophia Fargo (1847–1851), who died young
- Mary Louise Fargo (1851–1852), who died young
- Helen Lacy Fargo (1857–1886), who married Herbert G. Squiers (1859–1911), a diplomat who served as Minister to Cuba (1902–1905) and Panama (1906–1909)
- Edwin Morgan Fargo (1861–1865), who died young
In 1868, when he was 50, Fargo bought 5.5 acres (2.2 ha) on the Buffalo's west side and between 1868–1872, he built the Fargo Mansion at Jersey and Fargo Streets, which was Buffalo's largest mansion. The home was completed in 1872 at a cost of $600,000 (equivalent to $12,962,000 in 2020). Another $100,000 (equivalent to $2,160,000 in 2020) was spent to furnish and decorate the 22,170-square-foot (2,060 m2) mansion. Michael Rizzo, a Buffalo historian, wrote:
the 'most elaborate and costly private mansion in the state,' outside of New York City. The house took two city blocks, from Pennsylvania Avenue, West Avenue, Jersey Street, and Fargo Avenue. There was a central tower five stories high. At his request it contained wood from all the states of the Union. It was the first home in the city to contain an elevator in it, and it was said to have gold doorknobs."
He died on August 3, 1881 after battling an illness for several months. After his funeral on August 7, 1881, he was buried at Forest Lawn Cemetery. At the time of his death, only two of his children were living, Georgia and Helen Fargo. William's brother, J.C. Fargo, succeeded him as President of American Express after his death.
Fargo's wife Anna died in 1890 and their two surviving children lived elsewhere so the Fargo Mansion stood vacant for 10 years. It was deemed too expensive to maintain and with no buyer, the mansion was demolished and the block cut into residential lots in 1901. The mansion and estate grounds were only 30 years old.
John Butterfield (1801–1869) was a transportation pioneer in the mid-19th century in the American Northwest and Southwest. He founded many companies, including American Express which is still in operation today. The Butterfield Overland Mail Company was the longest stagecoach line in the world. The line operated from 1858 to 1861 on the Southern Overland Trail and established an important connection between the new state of California and the government and economy of the contiguous eastern states.
John Butterfield was a descendant of Benjamin Butterfield, who brought his family from England to the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1638. His father, Daniel Butterfield, lived at Berne, New York, on the Van Rensselaer Manor, near Albany. In 1822 Daniel married Malinda Harriet Baker. John was born November 18, 1801, in Berne. He attended schools near his boyhood home, but his education was meager. He was employed in the staging business at an early age.
“In early life we find him in the employment of Thorpe & Sprague, of that city [Albany], as a driver, and through the solicitation of Mr. Theodore S. Faxton came to Utica [NY], where he for a time was employed in picking up passengers from the taverns and boats for Parker’s stages. After a time, he started a livery  with but small accommodations. His connection to Parker & Co. continued so long as they were still in business, and was succeeded by lines of his own, wherein he was a leading manager in the State until staging was superseded by railroads.”
He started stage lines based in his hometown of Utica, New York.
“Mr. Butterfield devoted his attention largely to lines running North and South. At the height of stage coaching he had forty lines running from Utica as headquarters to Ogdensburg and Sacketts Harbor on the North, and South to the Pennsylvania line, and through Chemung and Susquehanna valleys.”
He soon expanded his transportation empire.
“He became interested in packet boats on the [Erie] canal, and in steamboats on Lake Ontario, in the construction of plank roads leading to Utica and was the originator of its street railroads. He more than any other secured the building of the Black River and Southern railroads. When the practical uses of the electrical telegraph were demonstrated he joined Faxton, Wells, Livingston and others in establishing the New York, Albany and Buffalo Telegraph Company, and urged the extension of other lines and companies. …He was a pioneer in the transportation business, and aided in developing it from the crude methods of the stage coach to those of the fast trains of our own time.”
John became aware that there was a need to ship parcels (express) by his varied transportation companies.
“In 1849 he formed the express company of Butterfield, Wasson & Co. being among the first who saw the profit to be gained by the rapid carriage of merchandise that would bear express charges. The success of that important enterprise was largely owing to him; he was a directing power in it during his life and reaped from its great distinction and pecuniary power. Later the business was conducted and is still known as the American Express Company, among the greatest corporations of the country”
Because of the pioneering success to establish an express company, other entrepreneurs in upstate New York, not far from John Butterfield's home in Utica, also started express companies by using Butterfield's vast transportation network. Henry Wells was from Auburn, NY (80-miles from Utica), and William Fargo was from Pompei, NY (50-miles from Utica) and their express companies of Wells & Co., and Livingston, Fargo & Co. became competitors of Butterfield, Wasson & Co. Butterfield saw the benefit of forming one company by consolidating the three separate companies. In 1850, The American Express Company was formed from the three companies into one consisting of two subdivisions. The company's subdivision of Wells, Butterfield & Co. would control the express business from Buffalo, NY, to the east, and the subdivision of Livingston, Fargo & Co. would control the express business from Buffalo to St. Louis, Missouri.
The Resource Study Act, to designate the Butterfield Trail as a National Historic Trail, was authorized under the Omnibus Public Lands Management Act (Public Law 111-11) signed by President Barack Obama on March 30, 2009. The act was completed and in June 2018 the bill was presented to Congress by Arkansas Senator John Boozman. Kirby Sanders was the consulting historian and lead researcher for the Butterfield study for the National Park Service.
Congressional authorized researcher Sanders put into perspective Wells, Fargo & Co.’s only direct involvement with the Butterfield Overland Mail Company. He stated “Wells Fargo may have run a ‘trunk route’ off the Butterfield [Trail] in LA [Los Angeles] but it was NOT Butterfield per se.” The line was very expensive and cost $3,500,000 to build and maintain. Some of the money was borrowed from the banks of express companies such as Adams Express and Wells, Fargo & Co. Express. William B. Dinsmore, who was also president of Adams Express Co., was the second largest stockholder and was Vice President of Butterfield’s Overland Mail Company. The largest lender may have been Wells, Fargo & Co. Express, since they were the most successful of the express companies.
Ownership of the six-year contract for John Butterfield’s Overland Mail Company was by stockholders only and therefore any ownership was as stated on the stock certificates. Nowhere in the six-year contract, with all its various changes from 1858 to 1864, is the name of Wells, Fargo & Co. to be seen.
“Although Wells Fargo & Company shared board members with several stagecoach companies, it was not primarily in the stagecoach business, it was, first and foremost, an express company, concerned with expediting the shipment of almost anything between a paying sender and an intended addressee.
In the late 1960s, some historians tried to make the case, through deductive reasoning only, that Wells, Fargo & Co. was an active part of Butterfield’s Overland Mail Company. One of these was Ralph Moody even though he stated in his book Stagecoach West:
“No conclusive evidence has been ever discovered to prove that Wells, Fargo & Co. had outright ownership of the Overland Mail Company and the Pioneer Stage Line on or before July 1, 1861, the date on which the overland mail contract was transferred to the central line.”
It wasn’t until 1867, five years after Butterfield ceased operations on the Southern Overland Trail, that Wells, Fargo & Co. entered the staging business when they scraped off the name on the transom rails of the Pioneer Stage Line and added their own. The line was operating on the western section of the Central Overland Trail.
His son, Daniel Adams Butterfield (1831–1901), was a Union general in the American Civil War, and Assistant U.S. Treasurer. Daniel is credited with creating the bugle call "Taps", a variation of a bugle call known as the "Scott Tattoo", in 1862.
A stock certificate is issued by businesses, usually companies. A stock is part of the permanent finance of a business. Normally, they are never repaid, and the investor can recover his/her money only by selling to another investor. Most stocks, or also called shares, earn dividends, at the business's discretion, depending on how well it has traded. A stockholder or shareholder is a part-owner of the business that issued the stock certificates.