What Was the Pony Express?
The pony express provided a fast postal service between two cities in America — St. Joseph, Missouri, and Sacramento, California — from April 1860 to October 1861. It was established by a freighting and stagecoach firm called Russell, Majors and Waddell, and was used only for letters. The charge was five dollars for half an ounce.
Expert riders, either small men or boys, were chosen to ride fast horses which were changed six to eight times on the scheduled ride. A specially designed square of leather, called a mochila, was thrown over the saddle and the letters were carried in four leather boxes attached to its corners.
The route covered 1,838 miles and included 157 stations, which lay from seven to 20 miles apart. “Home Stations”, providing food and a little rest for riders, were placed at distances of 75 to 100 miles. The time scheduled for the run was 10 days, but this was only occasionally achieved. The pony express followed the Oregon-California trail and passed through Ft. Kearney, Julesburg, Ft. Laramie, South Pass, Ft. Bridger, Salt Lake City and Carson City.
During the Paiute War of 1860, Indians burned stations and killed employees. Among the best-known riders were William (“Buffalo Bill”) Cody (1846-1917) and “Pony Bob” Haslam. Russell, Majors and Waddell introduced the pony express in the hope that it would save them from bankruptcy. But the completion of the transcontinental telegraph line in October 1861 ended its usefulness, and another chapter in American history was over.