Gordon Nelson’s 2021 article in the journal Western Express on Pacific Union Express won the quarterly research journal’s Basil C. Pearce Award for most outstanding article of 2021, the second consecutive Pearce Award for Nelson’s writings.
He won the 2020 Pearce Award for his article, “Langton’s Humboldt Express.”
His latest award-winner, titled “Pacific Union Express,” explores two similar, but separate, companies, Pacific Express and Pacific Union Express Company.
“As we shall see,” Nelson wrote in the introduction, the two companies “were not the same companies. Pacific Union Express existed nearly 19 months before Pacific Express appeared on the scene.”
Pacific Union Express was a $3 million California stock company incorporated in late 1867. It began operations in June 1868, from San Francisco to New York and with physical routes south of San Francisco. It expanded quickly to approximately 180 towns in California, Nevada and Oregon. It carried freight, letters, express, and provided other financial services – “all orders punctually attended to with dispatch at very reduced rates theretofore charged by Wells, Fargo & Co.” It was the “Opposition Express.” In the end it was outlasted by Wells, Fargo & Co. Its comprehensive coverage of the former California gold rush areas may have been too costly and the price cuts too deep. Not attracting an equal share of Nevada bullion business was a critical factor on its failure on December 1, 1869, when it was absorbed by Wells, Fargo & Co.
Nelson’s article was nominated by the journal’s editor, and the 11 members of the Board of Directors made the final selection. Western Express is the journal of the Western Cover Society, the premier society for those interested in the study of the history of western U.S. mails.
Nelson is Florida Tech’s Distinguished Professor of Chemistry and a Fellow of the American Chemical Society.