The Money Order Takes Off

Popular Reading


  

The Money Order Takes Off

The Money Order Takes Off

The Money Order made its way with very little advertising; in fact, virtually none in the modern sense. A brash young expressman in Wisconsin named Howard K. Brooks tried to remedy this. He had no money for billboard advertising or posters, but he had brains. He bought a quantity of big white cotton sheets and painted on them:

AMERICAN EXPRESS

To Send Money Away

AMERICAN EXPRESS MONEY ORDERS

Safe Cheap and Convenient

Brooks had two sheets sewn together at the top and draped them like a tent over American Express teams. It created a sensation in Wisconsin, and business was booming until a misguided friend of Brooks took a picture of one of the teams and, thinking to give the young man a helping hand, mailed it to the peppery president of American Express. Back came a sizzling wire to Mr. Albert Antisdel, the manager of the Western Department.

HAVE RECIEVED PHOTOGRAPH SHOWING ADVERTISING SCHEME. UNDIGNIFIED AND UNWORTHY OF OUR COMPANY TRYING TO PROMOTE MONEY ORDER SALES IN WISCONSIN. IT ALRIGHT FOR PERUNA AND PATENT MEDICINES TO HAWK THEIR WARES THROUGH ADVERTISING, BUT NOT FOR THE GREAT AMERICAN EXPRESS. I UNDERSTAND THE PERPETRATOR OF THIS IS A YOUNG MAN NAMED BROOKS. DISCHARGE HIM IMMEDIATELY.

J. C. FARGO

Mr. Antisdel was a man with a mind of his own. He looked into the situation and found that Brooks had sold more Money Orders than all the rest of the Western Department. Instead of firing him he quietly raised Brooks 's salary from £75 to £125 per month, brought him to Chicago, and put him in charge of the Money Order development of the Western Department. The later career of Howard Brooks more than justified his action.

Other forward-looking policies were put in effect during these tranquil years. In 1875 the first pension plan for employees was approved, and in 1885 the first mutual-benefit society for expressmen was incorporated by the United States and Canada Express Company, a subsidiary of American.

The most spectacular innovation of the period was the special American Express train put on by the company over the New York Central to Buffalo in 1888. The train consisted of up to a dozen company cars bearing the famous dog's-head seal of the American Express.

Every weekday evening the express station was a scene of apparently frantic confusion and hurry. With their wide doors standing open, the express cars, consigned to all parts of the West, stood alongside the loading platform while the express wagons drove up and Samuel Clemens got there aboard the Quaker City in 1867, he found the hotels and pensions of the Continent filled with Americans chattering happily about the wonders of their own home towns.

But the real vogue of European travel began in the last decade of the nineteenth century with the advent of fast modern steamers, "ocean greyhounds" like the Teutonic and the Majestic, which cut the running time from New York to Queenstown to a week.

The Chicago World's Fair of 1893 was also a compelling force in promoting travel. At least 12,000,000 Americans, or one out of every six, attended the Fair. It opened their eyes to the splendour of art and the excitement of beauty. By bringing the countries of the world to them, it fired their ambition to visit those countries. No longer was the grand tour confined to the very rich. A first-class passage to Europe cost only £50, and the mounting resources of the nation enabled thousands of ordinary people to enjoy a trip abroad.

Just before the rush to drink at the founts of European culture got well started, an event occurred which put the American Express Company in a position to profit by it. J. C. Fargo decided to take a trip abroad in 1890. He carried with him excellent letters of credit and all the power and prestige of the president of a great organization. Despite this, he sometimes had difficulties in obtaining cash. On his return he stalked through the corridors of 65 Broadway with more that his usual preoccupation. His temper was ruffled by his recent experiences abroad, and his imagination was fired by the possibility of a solution. He walked right on past his own office to that of M. F. Berry.

"Berry," he said, omitting a salutation and going straight to the point, "I had a lot of trouble cashing my letters of credit. The moment I got off the beaten track they were no more use than so much wet wrapping paper. If the president of American Express has that sort of trouble, just think what ordinary travellers face. Something has got to be done about it."

"Yes, sir," said M. F. Berry.

The problem was to create a piece of negotiable paper that would be almost as acceptable as currency yet safe-guarded against loss. This time Berry took several months to find the answer, but it turned out to be one of those utterly simple devices that revolutionize a whole industry.


To Learn more about Parcels For The P.o.W's - Click here

What next? The American Express Money Order

The American Express Money Order

The profits from cash shipments first began to slide when in 1864 the United States Post Office Department inaugurated a form of postal money order. The idea caught on fast. By 1880 more than £100,000,000 a year was being transmitted by postal money order, a large percentage of which was money that would otherwise have been shipped by express. It hurt the profits of American Express, and J. C. Fargo decided to try to get the business back. Once in the 1850s the idea of an American Express money order had been mooted among the directors, who had investigated the idea but had not implemented it. Now Fargo acted.

He went to Marcellus F. Berry, an ingenious employee, and said, "I want a money-order form that is foolproof and can't be raised.

"Yes, sir," said M. F. Berry.

It is worthwhile to take a look at Marcellus Fleming Berry as he sits at his old-fashioned roll-top desk, with his hat pulled firmly down to cover... see: The American Express Money Order


Of interest

Services overview

  • You can send us an email if you want to know more about waht we do and we will get back to you as soon as we are able.

  • Want to be a published author
    We publish articles on this site if they fulfil our requirments. more>>