On this day in 1860, the first Pony Express mail, traveling by horse and rider relay teams, simultaneously leaves St. Joseph, Missouri, and Sacramento, California. Ten days later, on April 13, the westbound rider and mail packet completed the approximately 1,800-mile journey and arrived in Sacramento, beating the eastbound packet’s arrival in St. Joseph by two days and setting a new standard for speedy mail delivery.
Although ultimately short-lived and unprofitable, the Pony Express captivated America’s imagination and helped win federal aid for a more economical overland postal system. It also contributed to the economy of the towns on its route and served the mail-service needs of the American West in the days before the telegraph or an efficient transcontinental railroad. (History)
The Pony Express was founded by William H. Russell, William B. Waddell, and Alexander Majors. Plans for the Pony Express were spurred by the threat of the Civil War and the need for faster communication with the West. Read more at the Pony Express National Museum and at the National Park Service.
An account of the first ride is also available at the National Park Service.
The Smithsonian National Postal Museum currently features the exhibition Pony Express: Romance vs. Reality.
The 2012-film Spirit of the Pony Express tells the story of the “short-lived but far-reaching American Institution The Pony Express by following a historical re-enactment along the original trail from Sacramento California to Saint Joseph Missouri”.
Buffalo Bill Cody is perhaps the most well-known rider of the Pony Express. He would later become famous for his Wild West Show. An exhibition dedicated to him is available at the Pony Express National Museum.
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