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Pony Express

PONY EXPRESS

PONY EXPRESS. The Pony Express officially lasted from 3 April 1860 to 26 October 1861, although a few scattered runs were made through November. At first, mail was carried once a week; after June 1860 it was carried twice a week. It operated as a private enterprise, but beginning on 1 July 1860, it was a subcontracted mail route of the U.S. Post Office Department. Prior to the Pony Express, mail could take weeks, even months to arrive from the eastern to the Pacific states. Most was carried by water. Those who wanted their mail in less than two months had only one option, John Butterfield's Overland Mail stagecoach service. Butterfield's stages used the Southern Route between Tipton, Missouri, and San Francisco, California. At its swiftest, mail traveled this route in twenty-four days. Westerners demanded faster mail service. The Central Overland California and Pikes Peak Express Company (COC&PP) freighting firm stepped up to the challenge. The owners, William Russell, Alexander Majors, and William Waddell, proposed a relay system of

horses to carry the mail across the then less accessible 1,966-mile-long Central Route between St.Joseph, Missouri, and Sacramento, California. They boasted of cutting mail delivery time down to ten days. Russell anticipated that the resulting publicity from a successful, showy service would help him secure a lucrative mail contract over that route.

The Pony Express used an intricate relay system of riders and horses to carry the mail over a route that passed through the present states of Kansas, Nebraska, Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, Nevada and California. Riders carried the mail across the Plains, along the valley of the Platte River, across the Great Plateau, through the Rockies, into the valley of the Great Salt Lake, through the alkali deserts of Nevada, then over the Sierra Nevada and into the Sacramento Valley. Russell and his partners bought four hundred horses and hired riders and stationmasters. Stations were placed approximately ten miles apart. Where they did not previously exist, the company built and stocked them.

Riders were assigned seventy-five-mile-long portions of the trail and kept a speedy pace by switching horses at each station. Riders carried letters and telegrams as well as newspapers printed on special lightweight paper. Mail was wrapped in oiled silk for protection and placed in the pockets of a specially designed saddle cover called a mochila. When horse or rider switches were made, the mochila was whipped off of one saddle and tossed onto the next one.

The price of a letter was $5 per half-ounce at first, and reduced to $1 per half-ounce on 1 July 1861.The fastest delivery time recorded for the Pony Express was seven days and seventeen hours, conveying Abraham Lincoln's inaugural address. Russell, Majors, and Waddell lost $30 on every letter they carried. By the time they sold their assets for debts, employees joked that the company's initials stood for "Clean Out of Cash and Poor Pay." In March 1861, the Pony Express became the property of the Butterfield Overland Express and Wells, Fargo. On 1 July 1861, Butterfield's Overland Mail line was moved from the Southern to the Central Route.

Although a financial failure, the Pony Express successfully filled the communication gap before the completion

of the telegraph, provided westerners with speedier access to family and friends in the East, improved contact between western military outposts, proved the Central Route was passable year round, and paved the way for permanent transportation systems along its route.


BIBLIOGRAPHY

Bloss, Roy S. Pony Express, the Great Gamble. Berkeley: Howell-North, 1959.

Bradley, Glenn Danford. The Story of the Pony Express. 2d ed. San Francisco: Hesperian House, 1960.

Chapman, Arthur. The Pony Express: the Record of a Romantic Adventure in Business. New York: Cooper Square, 1971.

Settle, Raymond W. The Pony Express: Heroic Effort, Tragic End. San Rafael, Calif.: Pony Express History and Art Gallery, 1959.

Nancy A.Pope

See alsoMail, Overland, and Stagecoaches ; Mail, Southern Overland .

The Mochila

Mochila is the Spanish term for knapsack, although the mochilas used by pony express riders did not resemble knapsacks. Made of leather, with four pockets, or cantinas, the mochilas carried the mail. Three of the cantinas were locked. The keys were held by stationmasters at each end of the route and at the home stations where riders handed off the mail. The mochila was easy to slip on or off a saddle, and when riders changed horses, they just grabbed the mochila and swung it over the saddle of the new horse. Riders sat on the mochila-covered saddle. Openings cut into the leather allowed it to fit over the saddle horn and cantle.

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"Pony Express." Dictionary of American History. . Encyclopedia.com. 21 Oct. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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"Pony Express." Dictionary of American History. . Retrieved October 21, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/pony-express

pony express

pony express, in U.S. history, relay mail service. At its inception in Apr., 1860, the pony express operated between St. Joseph, Mo., the western end of a telegraph line, and Sacramento, Calif. Riders carried the mail a distance of nearly 2,000 mi (3,200 km) in about eight days, often traveling through hostile Native American territory. Stations where the riders changed horses were roughly 10 to 15 mi (16–24.1 km) apart. After a rider had covered a certain distance, the mail was turned over to another rider; this continued until the destination was reached.

The pony express was operated by the freighting firm of Russell, Majors, and Waddell. As a business venture, it was unsuccessful. Before the pony express, letters to and from California had been carried by ships, wagon trains, and stagecoaches and had required much more time for the journey. The first telegram to San Francisco was transmitted Oct. 24, 1861, and the pony express was then gradually discontinued. Its existence was brief but picturesque, and the pony express lives in legend as well as in history. In 1992 the Pony Express National Historic Trail, which covers the entire route followed by pony express riders, was designated part of the National Trails System (see National Parks and Monuments (table)).

See L. R. Hafen, The Overland Mail (1926); A. Chapman, The Pony Express (1932, repr. 1971); R. W. Settle and M. A. L. Settle, Saddles and Spurs (1955, repr. 1972); G. D. Bradley, Story of the Pony Express (2d ed. 1960); M. Mattes and P. Henderson, The Pony Express from St. Joseph to Fort Laramie (1989).

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Pony Express

PONY EXPRESS


Pony Express was a short-lived but emblematic mail and small package carrier service that operated during the mid-1800s. It still remains a symbol of American westward expansion. The service began in 1860 as a means to move messages and parcels from St. Joseph, Missouri (then the western terminus of the nation's rail system), to Sacramento, California, and all points between. The Pony Express trail was 2,000 miles (just over 3,200 kilometers) long and could be traveled in eight to 10 days by a series of riders.

The service was backed by businessman William Hepburn Russell (181272), who hired 80 riders and kept 400 horses and ponies to make the relay journey around the clock. Each rider traveled about 75 miles (120 kilometers) per day. Riders followed a trail that ran along Nebraska's Platte River to present day Wyoming, then turned south toward Great Salt Lake (in present day Utah), and south of there turned west to cross the Great Salt Lake Desert to the Sierra Nevada Mountains (in present-day western Nevada), which were crossed into California. Along the route, there were nearly 200 Pony Express stations where riders would change horses or end their day's journey, handing off the specially designed leather mailbag to the next rider. These changes usually took less than two minutes.

Pony Express service was the fastest way to get messages across the frontier at the time; the only alternatives were transport by stagecoach or boat. But when the first transcontinental telegraph line was completed on October 24, 1861, the Pony Express folded only two days later. Its fastest run had been made in March of that year when a transcript of President Abraham Lincoln's (180965) first address to Congress arrived in Sacramento in seven days and 17 hours.

See also: California, Missouri, Telegraph, Utah, Wyoming

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"Pony Express." Gale Encyclopedia of U.S. Economic History. . Encyclopedia.com. 21 Oct. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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Pony Express

Pony Express (1860–61) US relay mail service between Saint Joseph, Missouri, and Sacramento, California. About 25 riders changed horses at 190 staging posts on the 3200km (1800mi) journey. The time for the journey was ten days, less than half the time taken by stagecoach. The service gradually petered out with the introduction of the telegraph system.

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"Pony Express." World Encyclopedia. . Encyclopedia.com. 21 Oct. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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"Pony Express." World Encyclopedia. . Retrieved October 21, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/pony-express

Pony Express

Po·ny Ex·press a system of mail delivery operating from 1860 to 1861 over a distance of 1,800 miles (2,900 km) between St. Joseph, Missouri, and Sacramento, California, using continuous relays of horse riders.

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"Pony Express." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Encyclopedia.com. 21 Oct. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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"Pony Express." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Retrieved October 21, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/pony-express