I'm really enjoying these mini history lessons! I don't have a great memory, so even if I learned these facts, I don't remember them. Today is no different. This day in history 1860, the first bag of mail with the Pony Express started it's journey from Missouri to California.
Starting in the 1840's, thousands of people moved west on the Oregon and California Trails which was followed by the 1847 Mormon exodus to Utah and the 1849 Gold Rush. The growing population in the West needed faster mail communication beyond the Rocky Mountains. William H. Russell, Alexander Majors, and William B. Waddell created the Central Overland California & Pike’s Peak Express Company to carry mail across the county. It later become known as the Pony Express.
With only two months to make the Pony Express a reality, the team had their hands full. Over 100 stations, 400-500 horses and enough riders were needed (at an estimated cost of $70,000) to carry out the task. The Pony Express was set up to provide a fresh horse every 10-15 miles and a fresh rider every 75-100 miles. 75 horses in total were needed to make a one-way trip. The average speed was 10 miles per hour.
April 3, 1860, the first official delivery began at the eastern terminal of the Pony Express in St. Joseph, Missouri. Amongst great fanfare and with many dignitaries present, a mail pouch containing 49 letters, five telegrams and miscellaneous papers was handed to a rider. At 7:15 p.m., a cannon was fired and the horse and rider bolted off to a waiting ferry.
On April 9 at 6:45 p.m., the first rider from the east reached Salt Lake City, Utah. On April 12, the mail pouch reached Carson City, Nevada at 2:30 p.m. The riders raced over the Sierra Nevada Mountains, through Placerville, California and on to Sacramento. Around midnight on April 14, 1860, the first mail pouch was delivered via the Pony Express to San Francisco, California. This meant 1,966 miles were traversed in 10 days. making the Pony Express twice as fast as the next mail delivery option.
On June 16, 1860, about ten weeks after the Pony Express began operations, Congress authorized a bill to subsidize a transcontinental telegraph line to connect the Missouri River and the Pacific Coast. This resulted in the incorporation of the Overland Telegraph Company of California and the Pacific Telegraph Company of Nebraska.
While the telegraph lines were under construction the Pony Express operated as usual. Letters and newspapers traveled the entire length of the line from St. Joseph to Sacramento. The telegrams went only between the rapidly advancing wire ends.
Despite the success and approval of the public, the Pony Express was by no means a trouble-free operation. Costs and difficulties of maintaining the extensive network of stations, people and horses were abundant. Yet the Pony Express, with the exception of delays caused by the Pyramid Lake War, stayed in operation until the telegraph's arrival in 1861.
It was on October 26, 1861 that San Francisco was in direct contact with New York City. The Pony Express was officially terminated after only 18 months. In November 1861 the last Pony Express letters completed their journey, but the Pony Express would become synonymous with the Old West.