Casey Jones Rail Road Unit of the ATA


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Trains on Private Express Labels and Stamps

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The first widely recognized American private express company was started in Boston, Massachusetts in 1839 by William F. Hamden and it became a very successful business endeavor. Other Expressmen followed Hamden's enterprising lead resulting in thousands of private express companies in the United States and Canada by the end of the 19th Century. Many of these expresses (and their parcel delivery company 'cousins') issued labels and stamps as part of their normal business operations. These labels and stamps were used to identify express services and for customers to prepay delivery charges. This Catalog lists over 2000 of the many private labels and stamps that were issued in the first 85 years of the express business in North America.

Bruce H. Mosher, Author of the Catalog of Private Express Labels and Stamps, has been collecting and researching United States and Canada private express material for over ten years. He is a former Express Section Editor for The Penny Post and has had several articles published in philatelic journals that chronicle the history of express companies, their labels, and their stamps. He is a long time member of the American Philatelic Society, the American Revenue Association, the Western Cover Society, and the Carriers and Locals Society.

"This is far and away the most comprehensive priced catalog ever published on the subject, with over 2100 items illustrated from the US and BNA. It includes labels for over 525 companies, and lists over 145 corner cards, 1790 express labels and over 900 express stamps. It was compiled from over 50 sources, and includes short descriptions and operating years for many of the companies." (James E Lee, Philatelic literature dealer)

See also, this review by Richard Frajola.

Trains on Express Labels and Stamps

I have been interested in Express Labels and Stamps ever since I started writing the train-related pages of this website, and learned from viewers that there were a lot of private issues that I needed to know about and display. But I was frustrated by the difficulty of obtaining even information, let alone images or actual examples of the material. So I did the best I could with what I could find, and left it at that. You can see the result of my efforts on my original page of Trains on US Expresses and Locals.

Fortunately, the author of this catalog found that page, and wrote to ask if I would be interested in buying his book. I was, and once I saw what a fantastic job he had done, I asked if he would permit me to scan and display his images and text here. He not only consented, he volunteered to send his original scans. So now, thanks to his generosity, I can share his findings with my fellow rail philately enthusiasts.

Let me point out right away that most of these items have no philatelic connection, i.e. they did not show payment of fees. As Mr. Mosher explains in his book, one reason for their use was to help assure that a package would be routed properly to its destination, or back to its source if it got lost. So to a stamp collector they are Cinderellas, at best; but to a rail enthusiast they are cherished relics of an important period in railroad history, and to me they belong in a rail philatelic collection, as key peripheral documents.

Below are all the items from Mr. Mosher's catalog that depict a train, locomotive, or rail vehicle. Note that his book shows many more labels with a rail connection, but I have chosen to feature only those that actually picture rail equipment. I include descriptive data, but not the pricing. I have used Mr. Mosher's notation scheme, as well as his images; indeed, ALL the images and text below are from his book, with the exception of the "Equipment" notes - I added those, and take sole responsibliity for their content, as well as for any other errors I may have introduced in the process of creating these pages.

If you are like me, your next question is "Where can I buy labels like these?" I asked Bruce that question, and here is his reply:

Private express labels and stamps are not offered very often by any dealers or auction houses, nor are there (to my knowledge) any specialty dealers. Finding examples with trains on them is even more difficult. I search my favorite sources rather regularly and not many opportunities come along. Also, as you can probably tell, I'm an active collector of this material, so I'm very reluctant to divulge the few sources that I've cultivated over the last ten years of collecting these elusive items.

Oh, well.

9/1/2 - CJRRU member Tony Goodbody of the UK writes

Do you receive the Nutmeg auction catalogues? If not see their website at http://www.nutmegstamp.com See (for example) lot 8049 in Nutmeg sale #52 which takes place September 5th. Description; The National Express Co, formerly Pullen, Virgil & Co. illustrated shipping document, Glenn Falls NY, dated June 25, 1856, marked for Jacksonville, Iowa, nice train design, VF Ext = $120    Indeed lots 7990 - 8102 are all Express Co. labels etc.
Thanks, Tony.

At the bottom of the page is information on how you can order a copy of this wonderful book. It contains far more information than I have presented here, about the history and use of these labels and stamps, and about the companies that used them. My main goal was to display the stamps themselves, for their rail connection, so I will leave it to the viewer to get a copy of the book, if you want to know more.

Bill Senkus, August 29, 2002

Please e-mail me at if you can provide additional information about any item, especially the equipment shown.

Click on any image below to view an enlarged version in a separate window

LEGEND: Most of the information below is self-explanatory, but some of the conventions used may not be familiar to all viewers, so here are some explanations:

COLOR - the two colors following this title represent the ink and paper.
So "Black/Orange" means the item was printed with black ink on orange paper.

EQUIPMENT - these notes are very crude at present. If you can provide more specific data, please do so.
The terms "very early" and "early" are somewhat arbitrary, but in general refer to designs of the 1820's, 1830's and early 1840's. On early steam locomotives, the driver or engineer stood exposed at the rear, while both baggage/freightand passenger cars were open to the elements. By the 1850's locomotives had enclosed cabs. First Class passenger cars were enclosed fairly early, even in the 1830's, while second class and steerage remained open into the 1840s. Everything had to be enclosed eventually, since the higher speeds, plus the danger of fire from sparks made travel too hazardous otherwise.

IMAGE SIZE - Illustrations are not to scale relative to each other. Read the Size entries to obtain actual and relative sizes. The "ww x hh mm" entries define the outer dimensions of frame rectangles, or other measurable design extremes. "O/A ww x hh mm" entries define the overall paper size of a label/stamp or booklet cover when no design extremes are easily measureable. Unknown sizes are marked "Unknown". Uncertain dimensions are followed by a question mark.

UNITED STATES

Label or Stamp Image

Description

ADAMS & CO's EXPRESS (1841-55)

Started in 1841 by Alvin Adams in Boston, Mass. Operated as a private mail and regional/parcel express company mainly in the Eastern states and California. Also known as "Adams & Co." and "Adams Package Express." This company was terminated on February 23, 1855. Succeeded by Adams Express Company.

Company:Adams & Co's Express
Type:Corner card, embossed (Cameo)
Year:unknown
Size:unknown
Color:Blue
Equipment:I thought it was just my imagination, but I saw a locomotive with steam coming out of its balloon stack here, and probably a tender and freight car. Bruce has confirmed that the description he was given of the item says "Locomotive in center", so score one for a good imagination.
Mosher #:A&CX-C13

AMERICAN EXPRESS COMPANY (1850-68, 1873-1918+)

Formed on March 18, 1850 in Buffalo, NY by the merger of Livingston, Fargo and Company, Wells and Co., and the Butterfield and Wasson express operations, American Express was a regional private mail and parcel express company. Until about 1868, proprietors Livingston, Fargo and Co. conducted American's express business west of Buffalo, NY and proprietors Wells, Butterfield and Co. performed American's business east of Buffalo. These proprietor names appear on many early American Express labels. From December 1, 1868 to January 31, 1873 this company and its proprietors became the American Merchants Union Express after merging with their competitor Merchants Union Express Co. After this period the company name reverted to the American Express Co., which has persisted to the present. American Express became one of the four largest U.S. express companies ever, with mainly northern operations throughout the eastern and mid-western states and into Canada. The package express business portion of this company ended and was absorbed by the American Railway Express Co. on July 1, 1918 by federal proclamation.

Company:American Express Company
Type:Label, Imperf.
Year:unknown
Size:38x26 mm
Color:Black/Orange
Equipment:Early steam locomotive with two passenger cars(?)
Mosher #:AMEX-L265
Company:American Express Company
Type:Label, Imperf.
Year:unknown
Size:93x69 mm
Color:Black/Orange
Equipment:Classic 4-4-0 with tender (coal?), baggage/freight car, passenger cars
Mosher #:AMEX-L270
Company:American Express Company
Type:Label, Imperf.
Year:ca. 1885
Size:76x54 mm
Color:Multicolored/White
Equipment:Classic 4-4-0 with train of baggage/freight cars
Mosher #:AMEX-L276
Company:American Express Company
Type:Label, Imperf.
Year:ca. 1888
Size:89x60 mm
Color:Black/Yellow
Equipment:Classic 4-4-0 with train of baggage/freight cars
Mosher #:AMEX-L280

Company:American Express Company
Type:Label, Imperf.
Year:ca. 1857
Size:27x33.5 mm
Color:Black/Orange
Equipment:Based on the illustration in Bruce's book (upper image at left), and similar images from the period, I was convinced this item showed the front of a tiny steam locomotive emerging from the bottom of the female figure's robe, at the bottom right (click on the image to view an enlarged version). I presume the allegorical female figure is "Commerce", or something of the sort, they were fond of those allegorical figures back then. To see what I mean about "similar images of the period", look at the Civil War patriotic envelopes on this page. But then Bruce sent the color image, and the locomotive disappeared - well, sort of - I can still see it if I try. So sometimes a train, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. Click here to see another example of this phenomenon.
Mosher #:AMEX-L320
Company:American Express Company
Type:Label, Imperf.
Year:Unknown
Size:66.5x40.5 mm
Color:Black/Orange
Equipment:Very early steam locomotive with tender, baggage/freight car, and passenger car. Can any viewer identify the locomotive? It looks similar to others I know, but not exactly any of them. There's enough detail it should be possible to name it, assuming the drawing was based on a real model.
Mosher #:AMEX-L530
Company:American Express Company
Type:Label, Imperf.
Year:ca. 1860
Size:Unknown
Color:Black/Orange
Equipment:By itself, this image is too crude to say more than it looks like the ubiquitous classic 4-4-0 with tender, baggage/freight car, and passenger cars, but it is clearly just a variant of the 4-4-0 image used on many of the American Express labels that depict a train.
Mosher #:AMEX-L535
Company:American Express Company
Type:Label, Imperf.
Year:ca. 1854
Size:70.5x40 mm
Color:Black?/Red
Equipment:4-4-0 with tender, baggage/freight car and passenger cars
Mosher #:AMEX-L540
AMERICAN EXPRESS COMPANY - Livingston, Fargo & Co Proprietors - Operations Labels
Company:American Express - Livingston, Fargo & Co
Type:Label, Imperf.
Year:ca. 1857
Size:50x37 mm
Color:Black/Orange
Equipment:Tiny train crossing viaduct/bridge at lower right side of seated female figure (see text for AMEX-L320, above).
Mosher #:ALFX-L1
Company:American Express - Livingston, Fargo & Co
Type:Label, Imperf.
Year:ca. 1857
Size:46.5x35.5 mm
Color:Black/Orange
Equipment:Tiny train crossing viaduct/bridge at lower right side of seated female figure (see text for AMEX-L320, above).
Mosher #:ALFX-L3
Company:American Express - Livingston, Fargo & Co
Type:Label, Imperf.
Year:Unknown
Size:97x68.5 mm
Color:Black/Orange
Equipment:4-4-0 with tender, baggage/freight car and passenger cars
Mosher #:ALFX-L35
Company:American Express - Livingston, Fargo & Co
Type:Label, Imperf.
Year:Unknown
Size:97x70 mm
Color:Black/Orange
Equipment:4-4-0 with tender, baggage/freight car and passenger cars
Mosher #:ALFX-L36
Company:American Express - Livingston, Fargo & Co
Type:Label, Imperf.
Year:ca. 1858
Size:71x42 mm
Color:Black/Orange
Equipment:4-4-0, tender, baggage/freight car
Mosher #:ALFX-L70
Company:American Express - Livingston, Fargo & Co
Type:Label, Imperf.
Year:Unknown
Size:65x38 mm
Color:Black/Orange
Equipment:4-4-0, tender(?), 2 passenger cars
Mosher #:ALFX-L75
Company:American Express - Livingston, Fargo & Co
Type:Label, Imperf.
Year:Unknown
Size:48x33 mm
Color:Black/Orange
Equipment:Early locomotive with tender(?), passenger car
Mosher #:ALFX-L80
Company:American Express - Livingston, Fargo & Co
Type:Label, Imperf.
Year:Unknown
Size:42x34.5 mm
Color:Black/Orange
Equipment:Early locomotive with tender(?), passenger car
Mosher #:ALFX-L85
AMERICAN EXPRESS COMPANY - Wells, Butterfield & Co Proprietors - Operations Labels
Company:American Express - Wells, Butterfield & Co
Type:Label, Imperf.
Year:ca. 1862
Size:47.5x35 mm
Color:Black/Orange
Equipment:Tiny train crossing viaduct/bridge at lower right side of seated female figure (see text for AMEX-L320, above).
Mosher #:AWBX-L1
Company:American Express - Wells, Butterfield & Co
Type:Label, Imperf.
Year:Unknown
Size:37.5x50.5 mm
Color:Black/Orange
Equipment:Early (fanciful?) 2- 2-2 with baggage/freight car?
Mosher #:AWBX-L10
Company:American Express - Wells, Butterfield & Co
Type:Label, Imperf.
Year:ca. 1854
Size:43x32 mm
Color:Black/(various papers)
Equipment:Early locomotive (crude image) with 2 passenger cars
Mosher #:AWBX-L15
Company:American Express - Wells, Butterfield & Co
Type:Label, Imperf.
Year:Unknown
Size:O/A 170x200 mm
Color:Black/Gold
Equipment:4-4-0 with tender, baggag cars, passenger cars at station
Mosher #:AWBX-L35
Company:American Express - Wells, Butterfield & Co
Type:Label, Imperf.
Year:ca. 1854
Size:68x41 mm
Color:Black/Yellow
Equipment:Early locomotive with tender, baggage/freight car, passenger car
Mosher #:AWBX-L80
Company:American Express - Wells, Butterfield & Co
Type:Label, Imperf.
Year:Unknown
Size:54x43 mm
Color:Black/Orange
Equipment:Early locomotive with tender, baggage/freight car, passenger cars
Mosher #:AWBX-L85
Company:American Express - Wells, Butterfield & Co
Type:Label, Imperf.
Year:ca. 1856
Size:38.5x25 mm
Color:Black/(various papers)
Equipment:Early locomotive with 2 passenger cars
Mosher #:AWBX-L90

AMERICAN MERCHANTS UNION EXPRESS COMPANY (1868-73)

On December 1, 1868 the Merchants Union Express Company merged with their chief competitor, American Express Co., to form this company. American Merchants Union Express was a regional private mail and parcel express company. It was managed by former American Express officials and provided mainly northern express operations throughout the eastern and midwestern states and into Canada. On February 1, 1873 the company name reverted to the American Express Co.

Company:American Merchants Union Express Company
Type:Label, Imperf.
Year:Unknown
Size:92x70 mm
Color:Black/Dark Peach
Equipment:4-4-0 with tender, baggage/freight car, passenger cars
Mosher #:AMUX-L20
Company:American Merchants Union Express Company
Type:Label, Imperf.
Year:Unknown
Size:92.5x70 mm
Color:Black/Orange
Equipment:4-4-0 with tender, baggage/freight car, passenger cars
Mosher #:AMUX-L21

ANDREWS EXPRESS (1843-45)

Local private mail and parcel(?) express company between Boston, Mass. and Portland, Maine via the Eastern Railroad (1838-85)

Company:Andrews Express
Type:Label, Imperf.
Year:ca. 1844
Size:35x41 mm
Color:Black/Pale Yellow
Equipment:Very early rail carriage
Mosher #:AWBX-L90

BAKER & PENNIMAN'S EXPRESS (ca. 1854-58)

Regional parcel express company that operated between Boston, Mass. and Pomfret, Conn. via the Boston and New York Central Railroad (1853-58). This company also provided express service between all Norwich & Worcester Railroad stations and all Providence & Worcester Railroad stations.

Company:Baker & Penniman's Express
Type:Label, Imperf.
Year:ca. 1854
Size:98x68 mm
Color:Black/Orange
Equipment:Early 4-4-0, tender, baggage/freight car
Mosher #:BAKX-L1

BIGELOW'S EXPRESS (1846-53)

Regional private mail and parcel(?) express company that operated between Boston and other towns in Mass., Maine, NH, Vermont, plus Montreal. Purchased by Fiske & Rice on March 1, 1851.


Company:Bigelow's Express
Type:Label, Imperf.
Year:1849-51
Size:17x14 mm
Color:Black/(various papers)
Equipment:Very early steam locomotive - resembles "The Experiment". See my Trains on US locals and Expresses page.
Mosher #:BIGX-L1

CHENEY & CO'S EXPRESS (1842-66?)

Regional private mail and parcel express company that operated between Boston, Mass. and towns in NH and Vermont plus Montreal. In 1846 this company became proprietor of the United States and Canada Express.

Company:Cheney & Co's Express
Type:Corner Card, printed (in upper center of envelope)
Year:Unknown
Size:Unknown
Color:Black
Equipment:Tiny early steam locomotives
Mosher #:CHYX-C2
Company:Cheney & Co's Express
Type:Label, Imperf.
Year:Unknown
Size:78x88.5 mm
Color:Black/Orange
Equipment:Early 4-4-0, tender, baggage/freight car
Mosher #:CHYX-L3

CHENEY, FISKE & CO'S EXPRESS (1855?-67?)

Regional private mail and parcel express company that operated between Boston, Mass. and towns in NH and Vermont plus Montreal. Proprietor of the United States and Canada Express.

Company:Cheney, Fiske & Co's Express
Type:Label, Imperf.
Year:Unknown
Size:55?x40? mm
Color:Black/Green
Equipment:Very early steam locomotive and tender
Mosher #:CHFX-L1
Company:Cheney, Fiske & Co's Express
Type:Label, Imperf.
Year:Unknown
Size:53x38 mm
Color:Black/Green
Equipment:Very early steam locomotive and tender
Mosher #:CHFX-L2

DENVER & RIO GRANDE EXPRESS (1880-1903)

Regional private mail and parcel express company that operated between stations on the Denver & Rio Grande Railway/Railroad (1870-1921) and other mostly small roads operating in Colorado, Utah, northern New Mexico and southern Wyoming.

Company:Denver & Rio Grande Express
Type:Stamp, Imperf.
Year:188_ (1886)
Size:112x63 mm
Color:Black/Salmon
Equipment:Baggage/freight car
Mosher #:DRGX-S1
Company:Denver & Rio Grande Express
Type:Stamp, Imperf.
Year:188_ (1886)
Size:112x63 mm
Color:10¢ Black/Light Green
Equipment:Baggage/freight car
Mosher #:DRGX-S5
Company:Denver & Rio Grande Express
Type:Stamp, Imperf.
Year:1884
Size:92x60 mm
Color:Black/yellow
Equipment:Baggage/freight car
Mosher #:DRGX-S23
Notes:This stamp exists in 7 denominations, each printed in black ink, on different colors of paper
Company:Denver & Rio Grande Express
Type:Stamp, Imperf.
Year:1886
Size:96.5x62 mm
Color:Black/Salmon
Equipment:Baggage/freight car
Mosher #:DRGX-S31
Notes:This stamp exists in 7 denominations, each printed in black ink, on different colors of paper
Company:Denver & Rio Grande Express
Type:Stamp, Imperf.
Year:1886?
Size:51x70 mm
Color:Black/Light Green
Equipment:Baggage/freight car
Mosher #:DRGX-S43


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To order the Catalog of Private Express Labels and Stamps, e-Mail the book's author at: bhmexp@digital.net


All images Copyright © 2002, Bruce H. Mosher
All text Copyright © 2002, William M. Senkus and Bruce H. Mosher

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Revised -- 09/02/2002