|Illustrated Map of Pony Express Route in 1860|
by William Henry Jackson
~ Courtesy the Library of Congress ~
In January 1848, Gold was discovered in California, but the poor communication between the east and the west would delay the so called “49ers” gold rush. In the next years, over 300,000 people came to California seeking their fortune panning for gold or supplying certain means to miners. Two years after the discovery, California entered the union as a free non-slave state and the citizens and business owners increased pressure on the government to establish a faster communication system between the east and west. Three years later, William Russell and William Waddell formed a company together, delivering military supplies back and forth. One of their employees then suggested to not only deliver supplies but to transport mail as well much quicker. Unfortunately, the concept was suggested to the government, but the proposed bill never got out of committee.
|Coming and Going of the Pony Express |
Painting by Frederic Remington
On 3 April, 1860, the first rider was finally to leave St. Joseph at 5:00 pm and a bag of mail and one newsletter, the St. Joseph Gazette arrived ten days later in San Francisco, California, greeted with tumultuous excitement as the streets filled with people cheering the event. During his route of 80 to 100 miles, a Pony Express rider would change horses 8 to 10 times. The various types of horse ridden by riders of the Pony Express included Morgans and thoroughbreds which were often used on the eastern end of the trail. Paints were often used in the middle section and mustangs were often used on the western end of the mail route, but also 200 native ponies in and around the Great Salt Lake Valley were chosen.
When the Civil War started, the Pony Express was only able to run mail between Salt Lake City and Sacramento. On 26 October, 1861 the company announced its closure and right after the war, the company was sold due the financial disaster it caused and the establishment of better mail delivering alternatives.
At yovisto you may be interested in the entertaining lecture by Christopher Corbett, talking about 'The Twisted Truth and Lasting Legend of the Pony Express.
References and Further Reading:
- The Pony Express National Museum
- The Story of the Pony Express at the National Postal Museum
- Long Distance Communication
- The Story of the Pony Express by Glenn Danford Bradley
- Eureka! - California and the 1848 Gold Rush
- The RMS Britannia and the Transatlantic Postal Service
- All Articles related to transportation
- All Articles related to communication