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Together with this, the reader will find a carefully prepared statement of its present condition in all quarters (especially in every State and territory in the northwest), and, incidentally, some notes of the local characteristics and business growth of numerous cities, towns and new settlements in the several geographical areas occupied by well-organized Express Divisions.
The author has aimed to give the intelligent reader a bird'seye view of all the prominent Express lines in the whole country, from Maine to California; by whom established and operated; and who are their present superintendents and conductors. Also, to combine with this, much practical information concerning Express routine work in its several departments, to render it useful to persons new in the business or preparing to enlist in its employment.
In short, the book is a vade mecum, or comprehensive statement and exposition of the Express, from its origin, by W. F. Harnden, in 1839, to the present time. Consequently, while it should interest every employee, to such of them as entertain a laudable ambition to attain to higher grades of usefulness and responsibility it will be invaluable, there being no other treatise upon the same subject extant.
NEW YORK, 1881.
A. L. STIMSON.
STIMSON'S EXPRESS HISTORY.
HISTORY OF THE EXPRESS BUSINESS, FROM 1839 TO 1860.
THE ORIGIN OF RAILWAYS, THE DECLINE OF THE STAGING INTER
EST, AND THE RISE AND PROGRESS OF THE ORIGINAL EXPRESS
IN giving a history of the origin and rise of the EXPRESS BUSINESS, it will be proper to consider, first, the causes. Wm. F. Harnden was not responsible for these. To him belongs the credit of recognizing a public want before the public had any definite idea of what the want was; and not merely recognizing it, but going practically and with characteristic energy to work to supply it. We propose to render in this book a minute and accurate record of his enterprise, not merely in justice to his memory as the beginner and earliest practical worker of an institution which, for rapid growth and business importance, is without a parallel, but because the facts are of interest to the public, and deserve a place in the commercial history of our age. Nor would it be proper to limit our narrative to the enterprises of Harnden alone. When he had justified the feasibility of his project by its success, the motive power of "competition" was superadded to his previous stimulus, by the creation of one rival express after another, until the whole land was literally lined with them. We shall attempt to do justice to them all in due course.
But, for some years anterior to any of these enterprises, there had been certain causes at work, and, the better to appreciate the nature and force of them, we must indulge in a retrospective glance at the last days of the old-fashioned stagecoach business, and the advent of railroads and steamships. And first let us take a long look back to the stage-coach service. It existed one or two centuries, and for fifty or sixty years prior to the construction of the first railroad it was regarded as a "crack" institution, worthy of illustration by the best artists. A highly spirited picture, usually a colored engraving, representing the London Mail Coach crowded with passengers, inside and out, and drawn by four or six fine horses dashing over the highway at a spanking rate, was considered as worthy of a place in gentlemen's houses in England any time during the first half of the present century. The taste and skill of good artists were tasked to depict "the team" in every possible situation,—in the act of changing for relays; or pawing the ground at the starting place, snuffing eagerly the morning air, and impatient to be off; or in the more unfortunate fix of an overturn, or breakdown. In all these various engravings, many of which are still extant, in this country as well as abroad, both coach and horses are always represented as fine-looking and creditable to the institution. Probably the Americans, as a people, have never felt half that love and admiration for horse flesh which have been characteristic of the men and women of old England, but it is due to the proprietors of stage lines in the United States, and more especially in New England, during twenty years or more prior to the origin of railroads, to record that the change which followed that era in transportation of passengers was in no degree owing to any inferiority of their teams to the English. Their animals were the best that could be procured for the purpose, and their coaches (we speak from personal knowledge of those then used in Massachusetts) handsome and costly. That they were numerous may be inferred from the fact that, in 1829, there were 77 lines starting from Boston. In 1832 the number had increased to 106, and they were all driving a flourishing business at that time, and continued to do so several years longer; for though the railway system was projected in Massachusetts
in 1830, it was not in operation until 1834. For list of stage lines we refer the curious to the Massachusetts Register of that period; also Badger & Porter's Stage Register, 1830-'5.
An important person was the stage-driver in those days, when locomotives were a class of monsters as yet unknown,, and the free earth had not felt the iron shackles of the railway. Commonly a portly, florid-faced man, with an air of authority that was most impressive, as he sat upon his box grasping the reins of his four or six-in-hand, he was looked up to by all sorts of people. As a celebrity he certainly ranked as high as the squire, or even as the minister; and this is saying not a little, for hardly a quarter of a century has passed since clergymen were reverenced full as much as the magistrates. That was before locomotives had been dreamed of; and post-roads and turnpikes were thought, by the great body of the people, to be fast enough. Had it been said to that corpulent commodore-like man, with the whip, reins and fate of fifteen passengers in his hands, that two parallel iron rails and a tea-kettle. on wheels would, at some future day, dethrone him from his imperial position, and render staging not only unfashionable but almost obsolete, he would have stared in astonishment, or smiled in pity, upon the speaker as either a fool or a madman. The stage-coach he regarded as indispensable as we now think the railroad and express. In addition to the conveyance of passengers, the driver had a multitude of other duties to perform upon his route. There were messages to deliver, notes and bills to pay or collect, and nice articles to purchase, beside the business (more important than all the rest) of delivering to banks and brokers packages of money for redemption, deposit, or exchange. Some of the old stage-drivers, on this account, aver roundly that they were themselves the original expressmen; but, however similar their service, it was never known by the name of express business, and was no more entitled to be called so than were the labors of the baggage-wagoners.
The profits of the errand business were, we believe, the drivers' perquisites. Many of these persons were possessed of some property, and were what is called "well-to-do in the world." They were, in numerous instances, either sole or part owners of their vehicles. They had no system in their errand
and parcel business: it was all in their heads, and their hats. A stage-driver's hat-even in those days when the monstrous "bell crown" was the fashion-was usually filled with letters and parcels. Some of them averred that they became prematurely bald in consequence.
We confess to an amiable curiosity to know what has become of all the good fellows who used to be connected, either as proprietors, drivers, or agents, with these lines, but we cannot hope to have it in our power to refer personally to more than a very few of them. Yet it is our purpose to make mention of many of those, who, before they were crowded out by the railroads, were the most useful and highly valued servants of the public, on the routes now used by the express companies, throughout the country.
Perhaps we shall be permitted to jot down in this place a few memoranda which we have gleaned from the old files of the Boston Directory, through the politeness of its enterprising and indefatigable proprietor, Mr. George Adams, and from some of the earlier volumes of the Daily Evening Transcript, the latter invaluable journal dating back as far as the summer of 1830, when it was established by Lynde M. Walter, and Dutton & Wentworth.
In 1829, just ten years prior to Harnden's enterprise, "the Albany coach, via Troy and Greenfield and Boston Union Centre Line," used to leave Boston on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, and arrive in Albany on the third day to dine. Distance 160 miles; fare $6.
The "Mail Line" to Albany, via Northampton, left on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and arrived in Albany next day at 7 P. M. Distance 169 miles; fare to Northampton, $4 50; to Albany, $8 75.
The extra fare by the Mail is to be ascribed of course to the superior speed of that line.
An "Accommodation Line," arriving in Albany on the third day, charged a fare of $7.
Another, foreshadowing the Express perhaps, used to beat the Mail by an hour; fare $5 75.
There were two or three other lines from Boston to Albany. The stage fare to Worcester in those days was two dol