Stocks and Bonds

William Fargo Signed American Merchants Union Express Company Stock certificate

William Fargo Signed American Merchants Union Express Company Stock certificate


American Merchants Union Express Company Stock Certificate. Single page 12" x 9.5". Signed by William G. Fargo, "Wm G. Fargo" as President, "E. P. Ross" as Treasurer and "J. N. Knapp" as Secretary.  New York. Dated "Mch 13, 1869" . Certificate No. 5516. Issue of 180,000 shares of Capital Stock; each share was worth $100. Near fine with slight edgewear and cancellation stamp. Assignment template on verso with original revenue stamp.


A handsome engraved stock certificate from the era of intense  competition amongst the 3 rivaling financial and express transport institutions, and issued only one month after the destined merger. The catalyst at the time was the discovery of gold in California in 1849, which prompted a huge spike in the demand for cross-country shipping. Wells and Fargo decided to take advantage of these great opportunities. Combine this with California regulating neither the banking nor the express industry, leaving both fields wide open, created a period ripe for chaos. Anyone with a wagon and team of horses could open an express company; and all it took to open a bank was a safe and a room to keep it in. Speculation in the California banking system became so rampant that by 1855 the California banking system collapsed.


The original company was founded on March 18, 1850, through the consolidation of three companies active in the express transport of goods, valuables, and specie between New York City and Buffalo, New York, and points in the Midwest: (1) Livingston, Fargo & Company (formerly Western Express), founded in 1845 by Henry Wells and William G. Fargo, later of Wells Fargo fame; (2) Wells & Co. (formerly Livingston, Wells & Co.), cofounded by Wells in 1846 and under his ownership at the time of the merger; and (3) Butterfield & Wasson, founded by John Butterfield and James D. Wasson.  American Express was at first an unincorporated association of investors headed by Wells as president and Fargo as secretary. By the end of the American Civil War, its business had so flourished, with some 900 offices in 10 states, that it attracted competition in 1866 in the formation of Merchants Union Express Company. For two years the two companies engaged in cutthroat competition and, on the verge of financial exhaustion, finally merged on November 25, 1868, to form the American Merchants Union Express Company, with Fargo succeeding as president. The company was renamed American Express Company in 1873.


An attractive, important stock certificate issued as No.5516 for 25 shares within one month of the merger of one of the largest institutions still in existence today. By 1903, the American Express company had assets of some $28 million


Item: 64945

Price: $300.00
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