Today in History: The Pony Express Is Off and Running
by M.C. Millman
On April 3, 1860, the mail delivery system known as the Pony Express began its 1,800-mile route running back and forth from St Joseph, Missouri, to Sacramento, California.
The Pony Express revolutionized how people across the United States communicated. The fastest delivery time for news and mail at the time was 22-25 days when sent on the Overland stagecoach. The Pony Express cut that time to 10 days or less.
This record-breaking accomplishment was delivered by establishing a network of relay stations where a team of riders mounted fresh horses every twenty-five miles. This enabled the mail to pass over long distances faster than if it had been delivered by any one messenger alone.
The relay stations constructed every 25 miles stretched on for 2,000 miles and required 500 horses to be on the ready for thirty riders who braved the elements, the mountain passes and constant Indian attacks.
After an investment of $70,000 made by Central Overland California & Pikes Peak Express, or COC&PPE, the Pony Express started on April 3, 1860. Monthly expenses were $4,000.
Besides sharing news and keeping people in touch, the Pony Express quickly became an important tool for President Abraham Lincoln’s administration to get intelligence and military orders to California officials during the Civil War.
The Pony Express continued through October 1861, when the nation’s longest telegraph line was completed. This created the first instantaneous communication between the Atlantic and Pacific coasts, making the dire need for the Pony Express obsolete less than 19 months after it got off to a running start.
photo credit: Flickr