SAGE, J. & SONS.
Turn-Out of the American Express Company Buffalo, N.Y
Buffalo: Sage Sons & Co., circa 1856. Very rare lithograph printed in colour and finished by hand. Sheet size: 20 3/4 x 27 7/8 inches.
Lithograph printed in colour and finished by hand, one of the earliest depictions of the American Express Company's beginnings in Buffalo, New York.
The American Express Company was founded on March 18, 1850 in Buffalo, New York, through the merger of three existing companies active in the express transport of goods, and valuables between New York City and Buffalo and points in the Midwest. These companies were: (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. The company generated enough cash for company officials to begin purchasing real estate, including in New York City on the corner of Jay and Hudson Street where the new headquarters was completed in 1857. The present work, therefore, is one of few pictorial depictions that locates the company and its employees in Buffalo and alludes to American Express Company's history and origin. The print shows American Express Company employees with unique, photorealistic faces "turning out" on Niagara Street in a wagon with the company's name proudly printed on its side. In the background can be seen the Niagara Street Methodist Church and the home of W.G. Fargo, one of the founders who later became the company's president. We believe the print depicts the company's founders. Since there were seven people on the board at the time of the company's founding, it is possible they are all represented here; sitting in the first row behind the carriage drivers are men with features resembling Wells and Fargo. The print's composition and execution by Sage Sons and Co. make the lithographed advertisement an impressive branding effort on the part of the newly established American Express Company. Harry T. Peters writes, "Turn-Out of the American Express Company, Buffalo, N.Y. is, I think for its pure expression of the spirit of lithography, with its eight horse team, and the gentlemen's high hats, one of the most delightful advertising prints I know of." No copies in OCLC or auction records.
Peters, America on Stone, p. 349; pl. 128; Grossman, American Express, p. 38-78; Severance, The Picture Book of Earlier Buffalo, p.105-150; Britannica, The Editors of Encyclopaedia, "American Express Company," Encyclopedia Britannica.