J. C. Fargo

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James Congdell Fargo (1829 – 1915) is a former president of American Express.


James Congdell Fargo was born in Watervale, Onondaga County, New York on May 5, 1829. He was the seventh of eleven children born to William C. Fargo. Fargo attended public school. When he was fifteen, he moved to Buffalo, New York to work for his brother William Fargo, who was running express lines between Buffalo and Detroit, Michigan & Albany, New York. Originally a clerk, Fargo was eventually tasked with the delivery of money packages. In 1847, Fargo was granted control of operations in Detroit. Four years later, when the company was organized as Wells, Fargo & Co., Fargo was named Superintendent of Michigan operations.

In 1855, Fargo was appointed agent of Chicago, Illinois for the American Express Company, the successor to Wells, Fargo & Co. He was then promoted to General Superintendent of the Northwest Division for the company. He left for New York City, New York in 1867 to assume the position of General Manager of the American Express Company. He became the third president of American Express after William's death in 1881. James was also a co-founder along with William Fargo of American Express. He was succeeded as president in 1914 by George Chadbourne Taylor.

Sometime between 1888 and 1890, J.C. Fargo took a trip to Europe and returned frustrated and infuriated. Despite the fact that he was president of American Express and that he carried with him traditional letters of credit, he found it difficult to obtain cash anywhere except in major cities. Mr. Fargo went to Marcellus Flemming Berry and asked him to create a better solution than the traditional letter of credit. Mr. Berry, who had invented the express money order in 1882, created the American Express Travelers Cheque which was launched in 1891 in denominations of $10, $20, $50, and $100.[1]

Fargo married Fannie P. Stuart on December 15, 1863.


  1. ^ Host With The Most, Time Magazine, 9 April 1956 issue

Grossman, Peter Z., American Express: The Unofficial History of the People Who Built the Great Financial Empire, New York: Crown, 1987.

Business positions
Preceded by
William Fargo
CEO of American Express
Succeeded by
George Chadbourne Taylor