EXPRESS (through the French from the past participle of the Lat. exprimere, to press out, by transference used of representing objects in painting or sculpture, or of thoughts, &c. in words), a word signifying that which is clearly and definitely set forth or represented, explicit, and thus used of a meaning, a law, a contract and the like, being specially contrasted with “implied.” Thus in law, malice, for which there is actual evidence, as apart from that which may be inferred from the acts of the person charged, is known as “express.” The word is most frequently used with the idea of something done with a definite purpose; the term “express train,” now meaning one that travels at a high speed over long distances with few intermediate stoppages, was, in the early days of railways, applied to what is now usually called a “special,” i.e. a train not running according to the ordinary time-tables of the railway company, but for some specific purpose, or engaged by a private person. About 1845 this term became used for a train running to a particular place without stopping. Similarly in the British postal service, express delivery is a special and immediate delivery of a letter, parcel, &c., by an express messenger at a particular increased rate. The system was adopted in 1891.

In the United States of America, express companies for the rapid transmission of parcels and luggage and light goods generally perform the function of the post office or the railways in the United Kingdom and the continent of Europe. Not only do they deliver goods, but by the cash on delivery system (see Cash) the express companies act as agents both for the purchaser and seller of goods. They also serve as a most efficient agency for the transmission of money, the express money order being much more easily convertible than the postal money orders, as the latter can only be redeemed at offices in large and important towns. The system dates back to 1839, when one William Frederick Harnden (1813–1845), a conductor on the Boston and Worcester railway, undertook on his own account the carrying of small parcels and the performance of small commissions. Obliged to leave the company’s service or abandon his enterprise, he started an “express” service between Boston and New York, carrying parcels, executing commissions and collecting drafts and bills. Alvin Adams followed in 1840, also between Boston and New York. From 1840 to 1845 the system was adopted by many others between the more important towns throughout the States. The attempt to carry letters also was stopped by the government as interfering with the post office. In 1854 began the amalgamation of many of the companies. Thus under the name of the Adams Express Company the services started by Harnden and Adams were consolidated. The lines connecting the west and east by Albany, Buffalo and the lakes were consolidated in the American Express Company, under the direction of William G. Fargo (q.v.), Henry Wells and Johnston Livingston, while another company, Wells, Fargo & Co., operated on the Pacific coast. The celebrated “Pony Express” was started in 1860 between San Francisco and St Joseph, Missouri, the time scheduled being eight days. The service was carried on by relays of horses, with stations 25 m. apart. The charge made for the service was $2.50 per 1/2 oz. The completion of the Pacific Telegraph Company line in 1861 was followed by the discontinuance of the regular service.

The name “express” is applied to a rifle having high velocity, flat trajectory and long fixed-sight ranges; and an “express-bullet” is a light bullet with a heavy charge of powder used in such a rifle (see Rifle).