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PART II. HISTORY OF THE EXPRESS BUSINESS,
FROM 1860 TO 1880.
THE AMERICAN AND OTHER EXPRESSES IN NEW ENGLAND.
BEGINNING my narrative of the condition and progress of the Express Business during the last twenty years, at the remote eastern verge of these United States, I shall aim to pass before the view of the patient reader all of the Express“ divisions,” or fields of operation, from Maine to Mexico, like a panorama; availing myself (as showmen of such paintings do), of the privilege of commenting, currente calamo, about matters pertaining, directly or indirectly, to the topic in hand.
In the earliest period of the service, forty-one years ago (1839), the extreme eastern starting point was the cradle of the Express—Boston; and all that there was of it was in the hands of its putative father, William F. Harnden, as has been already fully stated. Burke & Co., his competitors in 1840, began on the same stamping ground; but Burke soon dropped out, leaving the work to his more active and capable partner, Alvin Adams.
Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont were without an Express. Only the termini, and the chief intermediate towns of the lines of travel, partly rail and partly water, between Boston and New York city, enjoyed Express facilities at that time. Beyond those two routes, there was not an Express anywhere in the world. The European imitation was a thing of much later date, and never much resembled it either in system or usefulness.
Some two or three drivers of mail stages at that period did claim, long afterwards, that they were the original expressmen in Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont; but the comparison between their service and the Express was rather far-fetched.
The drivers of stages and wagons, both on long routes and on short routes, were the errand men of the period. Indeed, it must be admitted that their relation to the coming perfect express service was stronger than that, for they did carry parcels and freight, in a small way.
I remember, when a boy, just in my teens, my good father (of blessed memory) declining to pay my stage-fare for a second excursion in the same summer, from Boston to Hopkinton, Massachusetts, a distance of about thirty miles. I contracted with the driver of a wagon to allow me to ride to that very desirable rural retreat on the top of his load. And a very miscellaneous load it was. Upon a foundation consisting of a hogshead of molasses, two or three barrels of sugar, and a case or two of dry-goods, was a most heterogeneous superstructure of things wanted by country households and village artisans. Atop of all these my kind Jehu (who walked much of the way) spread a buffalo-robe, and, as I lay on it, covered me with his heavy overcoat—thus rendering it about as much like a Wagner or Pullman sleeping-car as his business was like the present complete Express service.
The shades of night had fallen already when he left Boston, and the stars were out I knew, though the canvas top of the large wagon obstructed my view of them. In my then adolescent period this was no appreciable loss. Sleepy heads are not apt to care much about the stars; and the monotonous motion of my“Pullman ” seemed to have transferred a portion
a of the load to my eyelids. Occasionally I would be half conscious that Hardy was stopping his horses in their swift walk or jogging trot, and delivering some package from the end of the bulky wagon, here and there, in towns and villages on the line of his semi-weekly trips; but the most of his load still remained intact, when, with a shake of my sleepy shoulder, and in a gruff, yet kindly tone, he announced our arrival at Uncle Sam's, my destination. ,
That nocturnal journey, memorable in the estimation of the boy, is still a favorite recollection of the old man. It was my earliest practical knowledge of the duties of a common carrier.
Originally, the Express work of Harnden, Adams, Wells, Pomeroy, and Fargo, had much in it that was just as petty and accommodating; and, occasionally, they, too, had a child to tote.
Probably the Southern Express, twenty years later, had had a thousand such temporary “wards," only somewhat more highly colored than Hardy's and a trifle less their own masters.
The old errand business of the mail-stage drivers was never undervalued by Henry Wells, the founder of the American Express. He had foreseen that the death of it, through the abandonment of the rural stage routes, consequent upon the creation and growth of the railway system, would be really a great public loss, unless it should be replaced, or become, in some shape or other, an adjunct of the service initiated by Harnden and Adams.
He and his business associates, Pomeroy, Crawford, Livingston, and William G. Fargo, cultivated that petty yet important public accommodation, in New York State, more than their compeers on the various routes between Boston and Washington, D. C.
In the immense growth of their still more important department, the Express people suffered that convenience to fall into disuse, but it is now revived under the name of the Purchasing and Commission department.
THE AMERICAN EXPRESS COMPANY IN MAINE.—Nowhere more than in Maine have the errands of the mercantile communities, and the people generally, from the governor down to the old woman “with her knitting,” been more carefully executed than by her expressmen. Boston is certainly peculiar in the multitude of her Express errand men, independent of all organization, and each running on his own hook (or with a single partner or two) upon the mission of the people, and serving them right well in all quarters of New England.
Twenty years ago, a number of the best of these independent concerns united, making two or three regularly organized companies, each having a stated capital. One of these was called “The Eastern Express Company,” and operated almost