Historical Context: The Pony Express

by connal on August 13, 2009


As we travelled East through Nevada along Highway 50, we passed several historic small towns which listed Pony Express stations as part of their claim to fame.

The Pony Express was established in April 1860 and shortened the travel time of mail from the Atlantic Coast to the Pacific Coast to 10 days – a shockingly short period of time considering that the Pony Express covered roughly 2000 miles of the cross-country route from the Mid-West to the West Coast.

About 190 Pony Express stations were set up every 10 miles along the route (the rough distance a horse could travel at a full gallop) and the riders had a strict limit on what they could carry. Riders could weigh no more than 125 pounds, and in addition to the 20 pound sack of mail, they would carry a water sack, a Bible, a horn for alerting the relay station master to prepare the next horse, a revolver, and a choice of a rifle or a second revolver. Eventually the baggage was cut down to simply the mail pouch, water sack and a single revolver.

What I found most interesting was the fact that for as large a part as the Pony Express seems to play in our national history, it exited for less than 18 months; from April 1860 to October 1861.

The service was closed down 3 days after the first trans-continental telegraph line was completed.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

1 Hannah August 13, 2009 at 11:35 pm

Did you know the Pony Express still rides once a year? From Holbrook, AZ to Scottsdale in the dead of winter (it’s a 2 day ride). You can send mail to Holbrook for them to deliver (after they hand stamp it and carry it on horseback to Scottsdale, it goes into the regular mail and can be sent anywhere). I learned all this from the owner of Young’s Tavern in Holbrook, who is one of the riders!


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