1884: The Cincinnati riot begins. In the 1880s, Cincinnati was a rough industrial city and had a rising crime rate in part due to problems with labor issues and in part due to government corruption. The Cincinnati police force had 300 men and 5 paddy wagons. During the early part of the decade, 50 people were arrested for murder and of those, only four were hanged, the sentence for a guilty verdict. On January 1, 1884 there were 23 accused murderers awaiting trial. Corruption in the city controlled election results and the placement of judges along with influence of juries. In early March the Ohio River flooded with a crest at 71.9 feet leading to even more chaos in an already chaotic city. The papers were calling for justice in a city rife with murder.
On December 23, 1883, a German living in Cincinnati, William Berner and his accomplice, Joe Palmer, a biracial African-American, robbed and murdered their boss, a livery stable owner. They then dumped the body several miles away. Berner’s lawyer went through 500 potential jurors before he could find twelve men to sit on the jury. A long trial had seven different people on the stand testifying to Berner’s admission of planning and carrying out the execution of his employer. Despite this, the jury brought back a verdict of manslaughter rather than murder. The public was outraged. Palmer was tried in a later and separate trial and was found guilty of murder and hanged.
The papers called for a public meeting to condemn Berner’s verdict and even the New York Times reported on the miscarriage of justice. One of the jurors was harassed by irate citizens and spent the night in the police station for protection. When he headed home, the crowds threatened to lynch him and the police were called in. Later in the day, the juror was beaten and another juror was pelted with rotten eggs and dead cats. Another juror was fired when he returned to work. By the next day, the state militia was called in to try to control the angry mobs who were ready to administer their own justice to Berner, who had been secreted away for his safety.
A mob of 10,000 threw bricks and stones at the jail when they found Berner gone. Then they tried to set the jail on fired. The mobs continued to riot the next day and attacked the jail, unsuccessfully. They moved on to the courthouse and set it on fire. A gunfight broke out and nearby stores were looted. Before order was restored, 56 people had been killed with over 300 more wounded and the courthouse was destroyed, making it one of the most destructive riots in American history. Berner served his twenty years in prison and the local political bosses were forced to retire.
Laxity of laws gives the Queen City of the West its crimson record. Preeminence in art, science, and industry avail nothing where murder is rampant and the lives of citizens are unsafe even in broad daylight. – Cincinnati Enquirer, March 9, 1884
For once we find ourselves sympathising with rioters. – London Spectator
A riot is the language of the unheard. – Martin Luther King, Jr.
We hoped against hope that what we had been doing was enough to prevent a riot. It was not enough. – Jerome Cavanagh
1945: The Battle of Iwo Jima ends. The 8.1 square mile island is part of the Japanese Volcano Islands and with two other groups forms the Ogasawara Archipelago. The island is 750 miles south of Tokyo. Pre-World War II the island was inhabited by 1,018 people living in 192 households in six settlements. They had a school, a Shinto shrine, and one policeman. A mail ship arrived once a month. A garrison was built on the island which was off limits to civilians and run by the Imperial Japanese Navy. By 1944, they were building up troops on the island and in July, all the civilians were forcibly evacuated. The primary goal of either keeping or taking the island was to control the airfields built there.
Operation Detachment was the US campaign to take over the island and control the two airfields in order to provide a staging area for future attacks on mainland Japan. To that end, they engaged in the Battle of Iwo Jima commencing on February 19 under Admiral Chester Nimitz for the Navy and General Holland “Howlin’ Mad” Smith for the Marines. The US had 110,000 military personnel and over 500 ships to take the island defended by 21,000 Japanese soldiers armed with 23 tanks, 438 artillery pieces, 33 naval guns, 39 anti-tank guns and about 300 anti-aircraft guns. The outcome was determined even before the first shot was fired, but the cost of taking the island is the stuff of which legends are made.
The Americans and allies lost 6,821 men and another 19,217 were wounded. One carrier was sunk, one carrier was severely damaged, and one carrier was lightly damaged. The Japanese had over 18,000 killed or missing and another 3,000 went into hiding in the caves of the island. The last 216 were taken prisoner. The fighting was so intense the airfields were useless by the end of March. The Americans controlled the air and they had superior numbers on both land and sea. The Japanese were unable to retreat and had limited supplies and food. The iconic picture of the flag being raised on Mount Suribachi by six US Marines was taken by Joe Rosenthal from the Associated Press. It became a symbol of the Pacific War and the USMC.
After the fighting ended, there were still thousands of Japanese hidden in the caves. Due to a combination of Bushido honor code and propaganda depicting the US military as barbarous and cruel, the men were fearful of surrender. When the need arose, they finally succumbed and were surprised to find humane treatment. The last holdout finally gave himself up on January 6, 1949. The island proved unsatisfactory as a staging area for the Army and useless as a fleet base for the Navy. The Seabees rebuilt the landing strips and they were used in emergencies. The US kept possession of the island until 1968 when it was returned to Japan.
Marines were trained to move rapidly forward; here they could only plod. The weight and amount of equipment was a terrific hindrance and various items were rapidly discarded. First to go was the gas mask. – Derrick Wright
Shells screeched and crashed, every hummock spat automatic fire and the very soft soil underfoot erupted underfoot with hundreds of exploding land mines … Marines walking erect crumpled and fell. Concussion lifted them and slammed them down, or tore them apart. – Robert Leckie
A nightmare in hell. – Robert Sherrod
On the 40th anniversary of the battle of Iwo Jima, American and Japanese veterans met again on these same sands, this time in peace and friendship. We commemorate our comrades, living and dead, who fought here with bravery and honor, and we pray together that our sacrifices on Iwo Jima will always be remembered and never be repeated. – memorial plaque
1911: The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory burns. The factory covered the eighth, ninth, and tenth floors of the Asch Building, a ten story high rise in New York City. The corner building was in the Greenwich Village area of Manhattan and is now known at the Brown Building and is part of the New York University. The factory, owned by Max Blanck and Isaac Harris, made women’s blouses, called shirtwaists. Most of the employees were young immigrant workers, mostly Jews and Italians. The women worked 52 hours a week, nine hours on weekdays and “just” seven hours on Saturday and earned between $7 and $12 per week or about $170 to $290 today.
As was customary at the time, the doors to the exits were kept locked to keep the employees from unauthorized breaks or taking stock. There were normally about 500 employees working, but this was a Saturday and there were only 217 people on the three floors. The shift ended at 5 PM and both owners and their children were in the shop. At 4.40 PM a scrap bin under a cutter’s table in the northeast corner of the eighth floor began to burn. The first fire alarm was called in by a passerby on the street at 4.45 PM when smoke was seen coming from a window. The cause of the fire was thought to be either a tossed unextinguished match or a cigarette butt thrown into a bin holding two months’ worth of cuttings. Next to the bin were hundreds of pounds of scraps from the cutting out of thousands of shirtwaists.
A bookkeeper on the eighth floor was able to telephone to the tenth floor to raise an alarm, but there were no audible alarms in the building. The people on the ninth floor knew about the fire immediately. The factory had two freight elevators, a fire escape, and stairways down to the street. Flames prevented access to one stairway and the other was locked. The foreman who had the key to the locked door had already made his own escape, without opening the door for others. Some people made their way to the roof and some crammed into elevators while they still worked. Soon the one open stairway was impassible in both directions. The fire escape was flimsy and may have been broken before the fire. It soon twisted and collapsed.
The fire company soon arrived, but ladders only reached to the sixth floor. The people trapped in the building tried jumping, either into an open elevator shaft or onto the street far below – or they waiting for smoke and fire to overtake them. In all, 146 people died, 123 women and 23 men. There were 71 survivors, including both owners. They were the lucky people who made it to the roof in time. Both owners were indicted for first- and second-degree manslaughter and were found guilty of wrongful death and paid out $75 per deceased person, much less than their insurance paid them (about $400 per victim). Blanck was arrested in 1913 for again locking employees into his factory and fined $20 for the offense.
I learned a new sound that day, a sound more horrible than description can picture – the thud of a speeding living body on a stone sidewalk. – Gunn Shepard, reporter on the scene
Word had spread through the East Side, by some magic of terror, that the plant of the Triangle Waist Company was on fire and that several hundred workers were trapped. Horrified and helpless, the crowds – I among them – looked up at the burning building, saw girl after girl appear at the reddened windows, pause for a terrified moment, and then leap to the pavement below, to land as mangled, bloody pulp. – Louis Waldman
But every time the workers come out in the only way they know to protest against conditions which are unbearable, the strong hand of the law is allowed to press down heavily upon us.- Rose Schneiderman
To investigate factory conditions in this and other cities and to report remedial measures of legislation to prevent hazard or loss of life among employees through fire, unsanitary conditions, and occupational diseases. – mission statement of the Factory Investigating Commission
1921: The inaugural Women’s Olympiad begins. It was the first international women’s sports event and lasted five days, from March 24 through 31. It was held in Monte Carlo at the International Sporting Club of Monaco. Two more Women’s Olympiads were held, one each year, at the same venue. The International Olympic Committee ruled that women’s events would not be included in the 1924 Olympic Games. Alice Millian and Camille Blanc organized games for the women to compete. Five nations (France, Italy, Norway, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom sent 100 athletes to participate.
France had the most athletes present with 58 and the UK had 21. The women competed in 11 different events from track and field. There were several races of various distances and relays along with high jump, long jump, standing long jump, javelin, and shot put. There were also exhibition events showing women playing basketball, gymnastic events, and pushball. France and the UK took all the gold medals in the events. The tournament was held at the Tir aux Pigeons in the gardens at the Monte Carlo Casino, a venue for gambling as the name implies, but it also serves as an entertainment complex for live theater and ballet.
These international women’s sporting events would later turn into the every-four-year women’s World Games which were organized by the International Women’s Sports Federations, also founded by Miliat. Although she worked as a professional translator, she was interested in all sports. She was, herself, a participant in the sport of rowing. She was a member of the Femina Sport, a club founded in 1911. Through her work, the Women’s Olympic Games were held in 1922, which infuriated the IOC who insisted on the sole use of the term “Olympic”. Miliats was convinced to change the name of her event after the IOC offered to add ten women’s events to the 1928 Olympic Games. The next time Miliat’s event was held, the name was changed to Women’s World Games.
The Women’s World Games were held in Paris and again only had five nations participating. France, the United Kingdom, and Switzerland were joined by Czechoslovakia and the United States. There were again, eleven events played out before a crowd of 20,000. Eighteen new world records were set. The games were held twice more with the 1930 Games in Prague and the 1934 Games in London. The International Association of Athletics Federations took over the planning of future events after 1934.
I am building a fire, and everyday I train, I add more fuel. At just the right moment, I light the match. – Mia Hamm
We live in a world where sports have the potential to bridge the gap between racism, sexism and discrimination. The 2012 Olympic Games was a great start but hopefully what these games taught us is that if women are given an opportunity on an equal playing field the possibilities for women are endless. – Jackie Joyner-Kersee
Champions keep playing until they get it right. – Billie Jean King
In sports, you simply aren’t considered a real champion until you have defended your title successfully. Winning it once can be a fluke; winning it twice proves you are the best. – Althea Gibson
1540: Waltham Abbey is dissolved. The English Parliament passed the Act of Supremacy in 1534 which made the monarch also the Supreme Head of the Church of England, separate from Papal authority. The First and Second Suppression Acts followed in 1536 and 1539. This gave the monarch, King Henry VIII, the power to dissolve monasteries throughout his realm. At the time there were about 900 religious houses with about 12,000 people living there. One adult male in fifty was in religious orders at the time. It was assumed the income and assets from these establishments would increase the income of the Crown, many lands were sold off to pay for Henry’s military campaigns in the coming years.
Waltham Abbey lies about 15 miles NNE of central London. Archeological digs have shown the site has been in use for much longer than originally thought. Traces of rubble date back to the seventh century and radiocarbon dating of a burial site places it between 590 and 690 with a proposed original building date of 610 during the reign of King Saebert of Essex, a ruler noted for his church building. A second church was built in the late eighth century by King Offa of Mercia. In the twelfth century, the church and manor were overtaken by Tovi the Proud, an Anglo-Danish Thegn, aristocratic retainer of a king. He had a vision which led him to dig up a holy artifact from 150 miles away and transport the Holy Rood or Cross back to this church and it then became a pilgrimage site.
Tovi’s son had to sell the property to King Edward the Confessor and it was rebuilt by Harold Godwinson (the future King Harold II) and dedicated in 1060. The church was rebuilt again beginning in about 1090, reusing some of the materials but designed in the Norman rather than the Saxon fashion. It took about 60 years to complete and yet another rebuild was undertaken when Henry II gave the building to the Augustinians as part of his penance for killing Thomas Becket. In 1184, after beginning to rebuild again, the church status was increased and it became an abbey which increased the number of canons from 16 to 24. It was dedicated in 1242. The Holy Cross still brought many pilgrims to the Abbey, both aristocrats and commoners, but the nobles often stayed to hunt in Waltham Forest. This included King Henry VIII who was a frequent visitor.
Waltham was the last abbey to fall when Abbot Robert Fuller surrendered it and the estates to Henry’s commissioners. Fuller was pensioned off as were the prior and 16 canons. The choir master was paid off and given a job at Canterbury Cathedral. The Holy Cross disappeared without a trace. It was suggested the abbey become a cathedral for the Church of England but nothing happened. Today, it is in fact, part of the Church of England as a parish church and The Reverend Peter Smith is vicar. While the church remains, many of the outbuildings were destroyed in the dissolution. The Norman crossing tower and transepts collapsed in 1553 and a new west tower was added after the dissolution.
Well-beloved subjects! we thought that the clergy of our realm had been our subjects wholly, but now, we have well perceived that they be but half our subjects; yea, and scarce our subjects, for all the prelates, at their consecration, take an oath to the Pope clean contrary to the oath they make to us, so that they seem to be his subjects and not ours.
Alas, how can the poor souls live in concord when you preachers sow amongst them in your sermons debate and discord? They look to you for light and you bring them darkness.
Amend these crimes, I exhort you, and set forth God’s word truly, both by true preaching and giving a good example, or else, I, whom God has appointed his vicar and high minister here, will see these divisions extinct, and these enormities corrected.
I am very sorry to know and hear how irreverently that precious jewel, the Word of God, is disputed, rimed, sung, and jangled in every alehouse and tavern, contrary to the true meaning and doctrine of the same. – all from King Henry VIII
1871: William Woods Holden is removed from office. He was a native of North Carolina and at the age of ten, began an apprenticeship at a newspaper and was working as a printer and writer by age 19. He studied law and was admitted to the bar in 1841, aged 22. He belonged to the Whig party. Two years later he became the owner and editor of the North Carolina Standard and he changed party affiliation to the Democrats. He became politically active and was elected to the North Carolina House of Commons where he served one term. He was a leader of the Democratic Party in the state but was unable to win the gubernatorial nomination and then his party passed him over for a seat in the US Senate.
During the 1840s and 50s, he advocated for Southern state rights, expansion of slavery, and was even supportive of secession, but by 1860 his ideology had shifted to support the Union and his newspaper lost readers when he supported a unified country. He was sent by his County to vote against secession in 1861, but when President Lincoln asked for North Carolina to send troops to help suppress the seceding states, Holden changed his vote to secede. As the Civil War dragged on, he became a critic of the Confederate government and joined the North Carolina peace movement. He lost a bid for governor in 1864 running on a peace platform. When the war ended in 1865, Holden was appointed governor by President Andrew Jackson.
Holden played a role in stabilizing the state during early Reconstruction efforts but lost an election later in 1865. Holden went back to his newspaper, but in 1868 he was elected as governor on the Republican ticket. At that time, he gave up his paper and began to track down Ku Klux Klan members using 24 detectives he hired to stop the KKK, the best record in the South. In 1870, after a new law was passed, Holden was able to use the state militia to combat the KKK and did so. Although the goal was to permit all legal voters to vote, the KKK’s tactics worked and Democratic Party regained majorities in both houses of the state legislation. With this power, they impeached Holden on December 14, 1870.
The main charges against Holden were rough treatment and arrests of North Carolina citizens by the state militia which Holden formed after several lynchings. Holden was defended by well known attorneys but was convicted of six of the eight counts against him with the Senate voting straight party lines. The Democrats were able to also remove Holden from his position, the first governor to be removed from office by impeachment. Holden moved to Washington, D.C. and worked on a newspaper there. President Ulysses Grant made him postmaster from 1873 to 1881. Holden died in 1892 at the age of 73. In 2011 the North Carolina Senate pardoned Holden with a vote of 48-0.
We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love. There is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us. When we discover this, we are less prone to hate our enemies. – Martin Luther King, Jr.
Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power. – Abraham Lincoln
You have power over your mind – not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength. – Marcus Aurelius
Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely. – Lord Acton
1931: The Great Dayton Flood begins. The Great Miami River flows from Indian Lake in Logan County, Ohio and travels through seven counties in Ohio and one in Indiana before reaching the Ohio River in Hamilton County, Ohio. The 170 mile river has a flood plain covering about 4,000 square miles. The winter had dropped a lot of snow in the area and during the end of March, three winter storms dropped even more moisture as 8-11 inches of rain fell over three days. The ground, already saturated from the winter melt, held little of the new rain and there was more than 90% runoff into the tributaries and river. While much of the region saw some flooding during these storms, none were as high as in the southwest corner of Ohio along the Miami River.
Dayton was the most affected, but Piqua, Troy, and Hamilton also had serious water problems. Dayton’s downtown was submerged in places 20 feet deep. Dayton’s biggest issue was geographic. The town was built around the convergences of three tributaries of the Miami – Stillwater River, Mad River, and Wolf Creek. The town was founded in 1795 and local Indians had warned of major floods every couple decades which continued through the 1800s with five major flood events – 1803, 1828, 1847, 1866, and 1898. On this day, Good Friday, the temperatures were warm and the first of the three storms arrived. Overnight, temperatures dropped to below freezing so when a morning storm hit, even less water could be absorbed. Easter Sunday had the third storm hit.
The flooding was not unusual and the citizens were carrying on in the face of the spring floods – until the Herman Street levee was found to be weakening. Before dawn on Tuesday, the levee had water to the top and it was still flowing at 100,000 cubic feet per second which was unprecedented. Water began to overflow by 6 AM and two hours later other levees began to fail as well. The water crested early Wednesday morning, around 1.30 AM and to add to the confusion, a gas explosion started a fire which destroyed even more property. Fires were starting all over the city and the fire departments were unable to reach them.
More than 360 people died in the flooding and about 65,000 people were displaced as 20,000 homes were destroyed. Buildings were moved off foundations or completely washed away and the debris in the water damaged those building able to stay standing. About 1,400 horses and 2,000 other domestic animals died. Property damage to homes, business, factories, and railroads was more than $100 million dollars (over $2 billion today). Another of the items lost was the history of early flight. The Wright Brothers of Dayton had many historical artifacts stored in their shop and destroyed or damaged by the flood.
Years of drought and famine come and years of flood and famine come, and the climate is not changed with dance, libation or prayer. – John Wesley Powell
The hurricane flooded me out of a lot of memorabilia, but it can’t flood out the memories. – Tom Dempsey
It’s a relief to hear the rain. It’s the sound of billions of drops, all equal, all equally committed to falling, like a sudden outbreak of democracy. Water, when it hits the ground, instantly becomes a puddle or rivulet or flood. – Alice Oswald
New flood maps in many states have raised the estimation of flood risks along rivers, streams and oceans, adding many properties to flood zones for the first time. – Bill Dedman
1852: Uncle Tom’s Cabin is published in two volumes. Harriet Beecher was born in 1811, the seventh of thirteen children. Her father was a Calvinist preacher; her mother died when she was five. Harriet was enrolled in her sister’s school, Hartford Female Seminary, and given a traditional education usually reserved for boys. When she was 21, she moved to Cincinnati where she helped her father, president of Lane Theological Seminary. She also joined a literary club. Cincinnati was a boom town on the Ohio River where many immigrants as well as free blacks competed for jobs on the canals and railroads. Riots broke out on at least three occasions as factions fought for scarce jobs.
Harriet met Calvin Stowe at the literary club but he was also a professor at the seminary. The two married. Both were abolitionists and they supported the Underground Railroad, even temporarily housing runaway slaves in their home. In 1850, the Fugitive Slave Law was passed, making it illegal to help runaways find their way to freedom. By that time, the Stowes were living in Maine and it was there Harriet had a dream about a dying slave and it inspired her to write this story. During this time, she also lost her toddler son, which increased her empathy. She wrote to the editor at National Era and her tale began serialization there on June 5, 1851. Weekly installments ran until April 1, 1852 and Harriet was paid $400 for her story.
John P Jewett made an initial print run of 5,000 copies of Uncle Tom’s Cabin; or, Life Among the Lowly with each of the two volumes containing three drawings and the title page done by Hammatt Billings. In less than a year, 300,000 copies of the book had sold, an astounding number of books back then. The main goal of the book was to educate northerners about the horrible treatment of slaves in the South. A secondary goal was to increase empathy for those still enslaved in the South. Stowe wrote a total of 30 books, including a sequel to her most famous work. She also had travel memoirs and collections of articles and letters published.
Uncle Tom’s Cabin relates the tale of a benevolent slave holder forced by economic reasons into selling two of his slaves, Uncle Tom and the maid, Eliza’s, son. Eliza and her son escape, but Tom is sold. Eliza is hunted; Tom is horribly mistreated by Simon Legree. Tom’s faith in God and his stubborn refusal to be broken by his new owner enrage Legree to the point of ordering him to be killed. Eliza’s family tries to rescue him, but is too late. Eliza’s family survives and escapes to Liberia and George Shelby, the man who sold his slaves at the beginning of the tale, repents his ways and frees all his remaining slaves.
The bitterest tears shed over graves are for words left unsaid and deeds left undone.
Friendships are discovered rather than made.
It’s a matter of taking the side of the weak against the strong, something the best people have always done.
To be really great in little things, to be truly noble and heroic in the insipid details of everyday life, is a virtue so rare as to be worthy of canonization. – all from Harriet Beecher Stowe
1649: The House of Lords is abolished by the House of Commons in England. England then, and the UK now, had a bicameral parliament. The upper house was the House of Lords while the lower house was the House of Commons. The Lords were hereditary titles passed from noble father to his legal heirs. The medieval practice of entitlement or “titles” began by decree with a Writ of Summons beginning in 1265 and by 1388 by Letters Patent. Titles were passed by primogeniture or to the eldest son of the prior title holder. There was a long standing attempt to reform the House of Lords, begining in 1539.
The House of Lords is made up of two distinct groups. The first is the Lords Spiritual (today these are archbishops and bishops of the Church of England) and Lords Temporal who are, as the name implies, not religious entities but peers of the realm. The English Civil War was a battle for power to run the nation with the Royalist or Cavaliers led by King Charles I, Prince Rupert of the Rhine, and Charles II pitted against the Parliamentarians or Roundheads led by the Earl of Essex Robert Devereux, Thomas Fairfax, and Oliver Cromwell. The third wave of war from 1649-51 had Charles II fighting the Rump Parliament, the residual members who survived Thomas Pride’s purge of 1648.
On this day the House of Commons passed an act which declared the House of Lords to not only be useless, but dangerous. They therefore decided to abolish the upper house and any meeting of the Lords altogether. This was never recognized by either the Lords nor the King and so was never enacted. The Lords Temporal resumed meeting in 1660 which restored the monarchy and the Clergy Act of 1661 readmitted the Lords Spiritual to the House.
Today, there are 1,461 seats in the Parliament of the United Kingdom with 811 of them in the upper house and 650 in the lower. The Lord Speaker is Lord Fowler who took up the post in September 2016. Baron Fowler, currently politically non-affiliated but previously a member of the Conservative party, has been a member of parliament since 1970. John Bercow is the Speaker of the House of Commons and has been since June 2009. He, as is necessary as part of the job, is non-partisan but was also a Conservative party member prior to his current position. They meet at the Palace of Westminster in the City of Westminster, London and along with Queen Elizabeth II as Queen in Parliament are the legislative body of Great Britain’s government.
The cure for admiring the House of Lords is to go and look at it. – Walter Bagehot
The House of Lords is like a glass of champagne that has stood for five days. – Clement Attlee
A man may speak very well in the House of Commons, and fail very completely in the House of Lords. There are two distinct styles requisite: I intend, in the course of my career, if I have time, to give a specimen of both. – Benjamin Disraeli
The House of Lords is the British Outer Mongolia for retired politicians. – Tony Benn
1850: American Express is founded in Buffalo, New York. It began as an express mail service, aka special delivery service when Henry Wells, William G Fargo, and John Warren Butterfield merged their companies to create a larger business. Two years later, Wells and Fargo wished to expand out to California and were thwarted so they started Wells Fargo & Co. American Express was originally headquartered on the corner of Jay Street and Hudson Street in Manhattan. They held a monopoly on moving goods, securities, and currency along with other items throughout New York State. They eventually partnered with other express companies, including Wells Fargo, along with railroads and steamship companies and went nationwide.
In 1882 American Express went into the money order business to compete with the USPS. In the late 1880s, William Fargo’s brother was traveling in Europe and despite having traditional letters of credit, found it difficult to get money in any but the largest European cities. Upon his return, he had Marcellus Berry create a better way – the Traveler’s Cheque was launched in 1891. This service made American Express an international company. At the outbreak of World War I, American Express in Europe was one of the few companies willing to assist Americans stranded there by the war. The British selected them as their official express service, delivering letters, money, and parcels to British POWs and the end of the war, they were delivering 150 tons per day to POWs in six countries.
President Theodore Roosevelt had them investigated for monopolizing the railroad express service. Nothing immediately happened, but during World War I, President Woodrow Wilson needed to commandeer the railroads for troop movements and other war efforts. The monopoly was broken and a new company formed, much of which had been former American Express business assets.
American Express first proposed to offer a travel charge card in 1946 but they did not enter the field until 1958, eight years after Diners Club became the first independent credit card company. American Express cards were so popular, 250,000 were issued before the launch date. The next year, they began to issue plastic cards, an industry first. They began to issue Gold and Platinum cards to different markets and for a time had Optima cards as well. It wasn’t until the 1980s that American Express began their push to become a financial service super company. For more than a decade, new companies were purchased to expand the investment banking side of the business. The last of these were sold off in 1994.
Money won’t create success, the freedom to make it will. – Nelson Mandela
A business that makes nothing but money is a poor business. – Henry Ford
A wise man should have money in his head, but not in his heart. – Jonathan Swift
When I was young I thought that money was the most important thing in life; now that I am old I know that it is. – Oscar Wilde