Pony Express Turns 150
It delivered mail between St. Joseph, Missouri and San Francisco in about 10 days – half the time claimed by stagecoach (it promised 23 days, but was almost always much, much longer). But the Express operated for only 18 months until the telegraph’s westward expansion obsoleted it.
During its short life, it embodied and perpetuated cultural motifs such as “cowboy vs. Indian,” “man vs. technology,” and the gold/silver rush.
It has remained highly romanticized to this day, with both Wells Fargo and the USPS appropriating the “Pony Express” mark for subsequent branding efforts.
Some fun facts:
- 600 “horses” (some were mules!) and 75 riders were in the fleet, each galloping about 60 miles until reaching the next relay station.
- The riders were usually teenaged boys.
- Horse and rider rode a riverboat from Sacramento to San Francisco for the final relay of the trip.
- Stories exist of ads saying, ““Wanted: Young, skinny, wiry fellows, not over eighteen. Must be expert riders, willing to risk death daily. Orphans preferred. Wages $25 a week.” The stories have never been corroborated.