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REA Railway Express Agency Shirt

REA Railway Express Agency Shirt


REA Railway Express Agency Shirt

  • Logo Printed on Front
  • 100% Cotton
  • Shirt Color - REA Green

    The first parcel express agency in the United States is generally considered to have been started by William Frederick Harnden (1812-1845), who in 1839 began regular trips between New York City and Boston, Massachusetts as a courier transporting small parcels, currency and other valuables. William G. Fargo, a New York Central freight clerk at Auburn, N.Y., and Henry Wells, a leather worker at Batavia, N.Y., organized Wells Fargo & Co. in 1853. Other parcel express pioneers include Henry B. Plant, who formed Southern Express Company, Alvin Adams who founded Adams Express Company, and John Warren Butterfield. Express delivery in the early 19th century was virtually all done via horse, either via stagecoach or by riders.

    The express business flourished in the latter half of the 19th century, and by 1900 there were four principal parcel express companies, all of which included the rapidly advancing railways as one of their means of transport: Adams Express Company, Southern Express Company, American Express Company, and Wells Fargo. In 1913 the U.S. Post Office introduced its Parcel Post service, which offered major competition for the express companies. Despite this, private railway express business increased steadily through the end of World War I.

    During World War I, the United States Railroad Administration (USRA) took over the nation's railroads. Under the USRA, the four major and three minor express companies were consolidated as American Railway Express, Inc., save the portion of Southern Express that operated over the Southern Railway and the Mobile & Ohio.

    In March 1929, the assets and operations of American Railway Express Inc. were transferred to Railway Express Agency (REA). REA was owned by 86 railroads in proportion to the express traffic on their lines - no one railroad or group of railroads had control of the agency. In response to customer demand, REA added a Chicago, Illinois-based refrigerator car line. In 1927, REA began an Air Express Division. In 1938, the remainder of Southern Express also joined the consolidated REA.

    Post World War II operations

    Due to rate increases, express revenues remained at profitable levels into the 1950s. REA concentrated on express refrigerator service from 1940 on, and continued to expand its fleet of express reefers until the mid- to late-1950s, when business declined dramatically due to the increase in refrigerated motor truck shipments. By this time, overall rail express volume had also decreased substantially.

    REA baggage car detail.
    Railway Express Agency worker, WWII safety poster

    In 1959, REA negotiated a new contract allowing it to use any mode of transportation. It also acquired rights to allow continued service by truck freight after passenger trains were discontinued. REA also attempted to enter the piggyback and container operations business, without success. Another blow came when the Civil Aeronautics Board terminated REA's exclusive agreement with the airlines for air express.

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