‘Private Provision of Money Orders in the United States by Express and Telegraph Companies’

Express Companies, such as American Express, and telegraph companies, like Western Union, competed with the United States Post Office Money Order to transfer money to destinations within and outside of the United States.   I provide the first detailed list of the cost to purchase express company money orders from 1883 to 1917.  Additionally, I track down the scant information on the volume and amount of money transfers by private companies to estimate their share of the market relative to the United States Post Office.  American Express issued its first money order in 1881 and Western Union started telegraphic transfers of money by 1872.  They competed with the Post Office on price, ease of use, and speed of delivery.

Aaron M. Honsowetz is an Associate Professor of Economics at Bethany College in West Virginia. Honsowetz specializes in the regulation and impact of historical communication in North America.  He has published on the passage of the federal deregulation of the United States Telegraph industry in 1866 and how the deregulation lowered entry barriers to construct competing national telegraph networks.  Currently Honsowetz is working on: constructing GIS datasets of the United States & Canadian telegraph networks and documenting the extent private company money orders were an alternative to money order provided by the United States Post Office.