American Express Company History

American Express Tower
World Financial Center
200 Vesey St.
New York, New York 10285

Telephone: (212) 640-2000
Fax: (212) 619-9743

Public Company
Incorporated: 1965
Employees: 88,378
Total Assets: $148.51 billion (1999)
Stock Exchanges: New York Chicago Pacific London Paris
Ticker Symbol: AXP
NAIC: 52211 Commercial Banking; 52221 Credit Card Issuing; 52222 Sales Financing; 52232 Financial Transactions Processing, Reserve, and Clearinghouse Activities; 52311 Investment Banking and Securities Dealing; 52312 Securities Brokerage; 52313 Commodity Contracts Dealing; 52314 Commodity Contracts Brokerage; 52321 Securities and Commodity Exchange; 52391 Miscellaneous Intermediation; 522291 Consumer Lending; 522293 International Trade Financing; 522298 All Other Nondepository Credit Intermediation; 523999 Miscellaneous Financial Investment Activities

Company Perspectives:

Reinvention. For 150 years, American Express has continuously transformed itself to meet changing customer needs. What began as a rough-and-tumble freight forwarding company in 1850, later became a travel company, and today, a leading global financial and travel services company. What remains constant are the hallmarks of the American Express brand--trust, integrity, security, quality and customer service. In many ways, the history of our company and the evolution of the American Express brand over 150 years have shaped the actions we take today. Our commitment to providing extraordinary service to our customers around the world is unwavering and now extends to the Internet. The attributes on which American Express was built are key competitive advantages that we continue to bring to bear with every product and service we offer. Key Dates:

Key Dates:

Henry Wells founds Wells & Co.
Wells, William G. Fargo, and John Butterfield form the American Express Company.
Wells Fargo & Company is founded.
American Express Company merges with Merchants Union to form the American Merchants Union Express Co.; Henry Wells retires.
William Fargo dies.
The American Express Traveler's Cheque is introduced.
Mann-Elkins Act makes express companies subject to the scrutiny of the Interstate Commerce Commission.
George C. Taylor becomes company president.
American Express opens its Travel Department.
The American Express Co. is established to expand the company's international banking operations.
The American Express travel-and-entertainment card (the 'green card') is introduced.
American Express acquires Shearson Loeb Rhoades Inc.
American Express is reorganized under American Express Corp.
The Optima Card is introduced.
Harvey Golub becomes CEO; American Express wins federal government's travel and transportation system contract.
American Express launches Blue, the first 'smart card' offered in the United States.

Company History:

Further Reading:

  • Burrough, Bryan, Vendetta: American Express and the Smearing of Edmond Safra, New York: HarperCollins, 1992.
  • Carrington, Tim, The Year They Sold Wall Street, Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1985.
  • Friedman, Jon, House of Cards: Inside the Troubled Empire of American Express, New York: Putnam, 1992.
  • Grossman, Peter Z., American Express: The Unofficial History of the People Who Built the Great Financial Empire, New York: Crown, 1987.
  • Hatch, Alden, American Express: A Century of Service, Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1950.
  • O'Brien, Timothy, 'Foreign Economic Warning Hurts American Express,' New York Times, August 7, 1998.
    Promises to Pay, New York: American Express Company, 1977.
  • Reed, Ralph Thomas, American Express: Its Origin and Growth, New York: Newcomen Society in North America, 1952.
  • Wahl, Melissa, 'Justice Department Says Lack of Credit Card Competition Stifles Innovation,' Chicago Tribune, July 17, 2000.

Source: International Directory of Company Histories, Vol. 38. St. James Press, 2001.