Archives Center, National Museum of American History

Guide to the Railway Express Agency Records


Collection ID:
Railway Express Agency.
Karl, Roger F. R.
Physical Description:
3 Cubic feet
10 boxes, 7 map-folders
Records of to Railway Express Agency, Inc., a shipping operations company.

Scope and Contents

Scope and Contents
Mainly forms, manuals, federal regulations, accounting instructions, and personnel materials. Included are labor agreements, an employee handbook, and information on the employees' sick benefit association. Other materials include drawings of property owned; and photographs, engineering drawings, technical publications relating to railroad passenger car brake equipment; also a public relations publication, "The Pony Express Story."


The collection is arranged into eight series.
Series 1, Adams Express Company, 1899-1913
Series 2, Railway Express Agency Printed Material, 1914-1965
Series 3, Engineering drawings and publications, 1898-1952
Series 4, Air and Mail Forms, 1954-1964
Series 5, Personnel materials, 1864-1879
Series 6, Schedules and routes, 1929-1967
Series 7, Rates, Rules, and Regulations, 1860-1962
Series 8, Notebook--Bulletins and Circulars, 1929-1958
Series 9, Drawings, 1873-1970

Biographical / Historical

Biographical / Historical
In 1860 there were three principal transcontinental mail and express routes: By ship from New York to Panama then by portage across the Isthmus to the West Coast and finally back to sea for the last leg to San Francisco; Second, the Butterfield and Fargo Stageline operating from St. Louis through the Indian Territory along the Santa Fe Trail and up to Los Angeles to San Francisco; and third the stageline of Russell, Majors, and Waddell, which traveled from Ft. Levenworth, Kansas to Denver, then over the mountains to Salt Lake City and California terminating in San Francisco. Early in 1860 the Pony Express concept was formed and operated from St. Joseph, Missouri to Sacremento, California. The end of the Pony Express came in 1861 when the telegraph line connected Omaha and San Francisco and officially ended on October 26, 1861.
On November 1, 1866, Wells Fargo & Co. purchased the stage and Pony Express operations from Ben Holladay. At this time there were several express companies; however, by 1914 there were only seven. During World War I these seven companies were consolidated at the direction of the Federal Government into one nationwide organization, the American Railway Express Agency. In 1929 the nations railroads bought the express business and changed the name to Railway Express Agency, Inc. In November 1960, REA Express was adopted as the Company's trade name. In October 1960, they acquired Fast Service Shipping Terminals Inc. In January 1961, formed REA Leasing Corp a trailer leasing company. In February 1965 formed with Seven Arts Associated Corp. and Travel Theaters Inc. REA Express Seven Arts Transvision, Inc. In 1965, they sold 32 terminals and leased them back. In April 1967, REA Express Canada, Ltd., was formed. In May 1967, Rexco Supply Corp. formed to conduct tire recapping and automotive parts distribution business. In February 1970, The Express Co. Inc. was founded as a subsidiary of REA Holding Corp to conduct an international air freight forwarding business.
On February 21, 1975, the Company filed a petition under Chapter XI of the Bankruptcy Act in Federal Court in New York County listing assets of $41,000,000 and liabilities of $55,000,000. Company said the reasons for the petition included losses created by years of railroad domination as well as high rate of inflation, a recent decline in express shipments, and limited availability of credit.


Archives Center Staff
Immediate Source of Acquisition
Gift from Roger F.R. Karl, consulting engineer.
Processing Information
Archives Center staff, 2006.
Custodial History
Collection transferred to the Archives Center from the Division of Mechanical and Civil Engineering (now Division of Work and Industry), date unknown.

Using the Collection

Conditions Governing Access
Collection is open for research but is stored off-site and special arrangements must be made to work with it. Contact the Archives Center for information at or 202-633-3270.
Preferred Citation
Railway Express Agency Records, Archives Center, National Museum of American History
Conditions Governing Use
Collection items available for reproduction, but the Archives Center makes no guarantees concerning copyright restrictions. Other intellectual property rights may apply. Archives Center cost-recovery and use fees may apply when requesting reproductions.


Keywords table of terms and types.
Keyword Terms Keyword Types
Pony express Topical Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Railroads -- Brakes Topical Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Railroads -- Freight Topical Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Transportation Topical Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Blueprints Topical Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
REA Express Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Mechanical and Civil Engineering, Division of Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
American Railway Express Agency Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Adams Express Company Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid

Archives Center, National Museum of American History
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