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Founder's Report

American Express: A History of Financial Innovation and Luxury

by Editorial Staff 09 Jun 2023

American Express, also known as Amex, is a financial services company that is widely known for its charge and credit cards. Founded in 1850, American Express has a rich history of innovation and luxury. Here's a closer look at the history and founder of American Express.

Early Days

American Express was founded by Henry Wells, William Fargo, and John Butterfield in Buffalo, New York. Originally, the company was a freight forwarding and delivery service that specialized in the transportation of valuable goods. This business model allowed American Express to become a trusted name in the transportation industry and laid the foundation for the company's later success in the financial services industry.

In 1882, American Express introduced its first charge card, which allowed customers to purchase goods and services on credit. This innovation was a game-changer, and American Express quickly became known for its commitment to luxury and exceptional customer service.

Expansion and Growth

Throughout the 20th century, American Express continued to grow and innovate. In 1958, the company introduced its first credit card, which allowed customers to carry a balance over time. This innovation made American Express credit cards more accessible to a wider range of customers and helped to establish the company as a leader in the credit card industry.

In the following decades, American Express continued to expand its offerings, introducing traveler's checks, corporate cards, and personal finance tools. The company also began to focus on international expansion, opening offices and acquiring companies in countries around the world.

Founder's Vision

The founders of American Express had a clear vision for their company from the beginning. As Henry Wells once said, "Our express is American, and our object is to make it the best in the world." This commitment to excellence and innovation has remained a guiding principle for American Express throughout its history.

The company's focus on luxury and exceptional customer service has also been a key part of its brand identity. In a 1985 interview with Fortune, then-CEO James Robinson III explained, "Our product is a state of mind...It's the feeling of walking up to a restaurant and having your American Express card accepted, or the confidence you have in being able to call from anywhere in the world and know that your card will be honored."

Continued Success

Today, American Express remains a major player in the financial services industry. The company's products and services include credit cards, charge cards, personal finance tools, and more. American Express is known for its exceptional customer service and commitment to luxury, with benefits such as airport lounge access and exclusive offers for cardholders.

In recent years, American Express has also focused on innovation and sustainability. The company has launched initiatives to support small businesses and to promote financial inclusion, and has committed to reducing its carbon footprint and promoting environmental sustainability.


American Express has a rich history of financial innovation and luxury. The company's founders had a clear vision for their business, and this commitment to excellence has helped American Express to become a trusted name in the financial services industry. Today, American Express continues to innovate and expand, while also remaining true to its core values of exceptional customer service and luxury.

Hey there! I'm Chuck, the Editor-in-Chief at Local Threads. We’re on a mission to showcase founders of start-ups and help them shine and tell the world about themselves, their products, and their vision in life. We see value in the stories of big brands and their founders as well. Their success can be a source of inspiration for start-ups.

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