John Butterfield Etched Portrait

John Butterfield

American Express logo
American Express logo

How did a former Mayor of Utica contribute to the development of American Express?

Apart from being the Mayor of Utica, John Butterfield contributed to the implementation of the telegraph system, built a grand hotel, gave birth to one of the world’s most recognized multinational financial corporations, and created the first cross-national railway.

Although not native to Utica, John Butterfield was a tremendous entrepreneur who worked hard to see this city prosper. Born in Berges, New York in 1801 to an immigrant family that settled in New York in the early 17th century, Butterfield became one of New York’s most prominent businessmen. His journey began early at 19 years old. In 1820 Butterfield found employment as a stage driver in Upstate New York, soon after he became a small business owner followed by the creation of one of the biggest companies worldwide, American Express. Butterfield’s involvement in the stage driving led him straight into the express business; he entered the industry just as the national economy was rising and the areas in which he provided service were expanding rapidly and exponentially.

His first company in the express business was called Butterfield, Wasson and Company. In 1849 John Butterfield had the vision to join his already-successful express business with his direct competitor Wells & Company. Not long after, in 1850, John Butterfield proposed to Henry Wells and William G. Fargo to eliminate their wasteful competition by joining forces, and later that year these companies consolidated and formed the American Express Company. This joint-stock business began with an initial capital investment of $150,000; the company is now valued at $87.3 Billion. Wells was elected the new company’s first president and Fargo became vice-president. John Butterfield continued in business but not as the principal face. After the creation of American Express, Butterfield founded another transportation company, the Overland Mail Company.  At the time it was of extreme difficulty to cross the United States, there was a lack of communication between railroads in the mid-west and those in California. Due to internal conflicts within the U.S., it was a hard problem to solve. Nonetheless, Butterfield saw it as an opportunity and created the service in 1858 dedicated to carrying passengers and U.S Mail from the East coast to San Francisco, California. After a while, in 1861, the Civil War ruined the route that Butterfield’s company utilized; the mail route changed and Butterfield was given a subsidy to oversee it. After a while, he served as the mayor of Utica in 1865, four years before his death.

Stagecoach Illustration
Stagecoach Illustration

John Butterfield established himself as a significant 19th-century innovator,  who worked with his partners at American Express tocreate a communication web that covered the East Coast from Utica to Buffalo and beyond,  and allowed western settlements and businesses to grow thanks to his Overland Mail. John Butterfield was a financier, politician, and businessman, who is best known for his active role in developing American transportation and communication facilities. In Spite of not being born in Utica, John Butterfield was very fond of it, he was a tremendous entrepreneur who worked hard to see this city prosper.

– Daniel

Published by

dsalomo8

His day-a-day interactions and objects that surround him heavily influence future designer Daniel Salomon’s artwork. Daniel Salomon was born and raised in Caracas, Venezuela, then later moved on to Tours, France where he learned French, and he now resides and studies in Utica, New York. He is a sophomore at PrattMWP School of Design and currently studies Communications Design: Graphic Design; however, he will soon attend Pratt Institute of Design at Brooklyn, New York, where he will be able to continue his studies and explore other areas of interest, such as printmaking. Daniel Salomon’s work is characterized for being minimalistic and humorous, he enjoys clean and simple designs that portray only what is necessary, however, he repeatedly tries to add humorous aspects into his designs in order to give a more personal touch to the work.

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