155th anniversary of the Pony Express

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Picture courtesy of: http://ponyexpress.org/history/

April 14 celebrates the 155th anniversary of the first mail being delivered by the Pony Express. According to the National Park Service, the first package arrived at midnight on April 14, 1860. It traveled across the Sierra Nevada Mountains from Missouri, through Placerville, California, and then on to Sacramento, down to San Francisco. There were 100 stations along the route with 400-500 horses and as many riders. It was founded by William B. Waddell, Alexander Majors and Williams H. Russell, on April 3, 1860. The Hartford Weekly Times wrote about the arrival of the first delivery saying “…citizens paraded the streets with bands of music, fireworks were set off….the best feeling was manifested by everybody.” The cost of the first delivery was $70,000 to the founders. That’s the equivalent of just over $2 million in 2015 money, thanks in part to the inflation caused by the Civil War. (article to find at: http://heavy.com/news/2015/04/155th-anniversary-of-the-pony-express-google-doodle/ )

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The “Pony Express National Museum” teaches us:

The Pony Express was founded by William H. Russell, William B. Waddell, and Alexander Majors. Plans for the Pony Express were spurred by the threat of the Civil War and the need for faster communication with the West. The Pony Express consisted of relays of men riding horses carrying saddlebags of mail across a 2000-mile trail. The service opened officially on April 3, 1860, when riders left simultaneously from St. Joseph, Missouri, and Sacramento, California. The first westbound trip was made in 9 days and 23 hours and the eastbound journey in 11 days and 12 hours. The pony riders covered 250 miles in a 24-hour day.

Eventually, the Pony Express had more than 100 stations, 80 riders, and between 400 and 500 horses. The express route was extremely hazardous, but only one mail delivery was ever lost. The service lasted only 19 months until October 24, 1861, when the completion of the Pacific Telegraph line ended the need for its existence. Although California relied upon news from the Pony Express during the early days of the Civil War, the horse line was never a financial success, leading its founders to bankruptcy. However, the romantic drama surrounding the Pony Express has made it a part of the legend of the American West. (Find this information here: http://ponyexpress.org/history/ )

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Picture courtesy of: http://ponyexpress.org/history/

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According to EyeWitness to history.com the life of a pony express rider was very dangerous. “Speed of delivery was paramount. Any weight other than the mail the horse carried was kept to a minimum. Ads for riders called for: “Young, skinny, wiry fellows, not over 18. Must be expert riders. Willing to risk death daily. Orphans preferred.” A specialized, light-weight saddle was developed that had built-in pouches to carry the mail. Hazards abounded, including weather, terrain, hostile Indians and bandits. It typically took a week for mail to reach its destination at a cost of $5.00 per ½ ounce.”

Two very famous historical names can be found on the list of pony express riders:

Buffalo Bill Cody                                                                                                      James Wild Bill Hickock

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22 thoughts on “155th anniversary of the Pony Express

      • Don’t worry, I know saddle sore when I have it. Those men would have been fit. Did Calamity Jane ride for them? I’m sure if she did they would have thought she was a man. Call of Nature, that would have to be quick. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      • From what I read about Calamity Jane she claimed she was a Pony Express rider, but it has never been confirmed. After all she as well write she served as a scout for the army and went to Arizona with Custer – but it turned out to be a lie. That’s why I left her out of the famous riders.

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  1. I’ve always loved the idea of the Pony Express. It was so short lived but has captured the romantic heart of the American West. Having spent most of my life around the Sacramento and Gold Rush the Pony Express was always up front in the local culture/history. Thanks for the article! Fun stuff.

    Liked by 1 person

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