Established in 1850 in New York, American Express Company was among the first and most successful express delivery businesses to arise during the rapid westward expansion of the United States. The U.S. Postal Service at the time was slow, expensive and nonexistent in many areas. Nothing larger than a letter-sized envelope could be sent by mail, and certainly nothing valuable, as a fair number of deliveries were lost or stolen enroute.
It was founded in Buffalo, New York, as a joint stock corporation that was a merger of the express mail companies owned by Henry Wells, William Fargo, and John Butterfield as an express business and freight forwarding company. American Express first established its headquarter was at the intersection of Jay Street and Hudson Street in the TriBeCa section of Manhattan.
In 1874, American Express moved its headquarters to 65 Broadway in what was becoming the Financial District of Manhattan.
In 1882, American Express started its expansion in the area of financial services by launching a money order business.
1n 1891, American Express invented the Travelers Cheque. It was invented by Marcellas Berry an employee of American Express.
Traveler's cheques established American Express as a truly international company. In 1914, at the outbreak of the First World War, American Express offices in Europe were among the few companies to honor the letters of credit (issued by various banks) held by Americans in Europe, despite other financial institutions having refused to assist these stranded travellers.
At the end of 1957 American Express decided to get into the card business, and by the launch date of October 1, 1958 public interest had become so significant that they actually issued 250,000 cards prior to the official launch date. The card was launched with an annual fee of $6, $1 higher than Diners Club. The first cards were paper, with the account number and cardmember's name typed. It wasn't till 1959 that American Express began issuing embossed ISO 7810 plastic cards, an industry first.
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