Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Pony Express - From St. Joseph to Sacramento

I've always had a fascination with the mail service. I have three generations of my family in the US Postal Service, and spent my afternoons after school at one station or another waiting for my mom or dad to finish work.And one day I sat in the ladies locker room and typed out a story on the typewriter on a discarded desk. So, I guess you could say that I started my path to publication in the backroom of a post office.

The Pony Express was a valiant idea, one that came out the amazing period of growth in America. The time it took for mail and packages to traverse from the Mississippi River to the West Coast was time consuming and could be unreliable. So when Russell, Majors, and Waddell created the Express, it was a step between freight wagons and the train which hadn't quite reached across the states and territories.

From St. Joseph, Missouri to Sacramento, California - Home stations and Swing stations popped up, linking towns of all sizes with mail and news from loved ones and businesses back east. And when it started the Pony Express could deliver mail in ten days!

The stations were located from 5 to 20 miles apart, keeping the wear and tear on their horses to a minimum. There were a few breeds and types of horses used along the trail. From East to West, you'd see Morgan ponies, and then in the middle of the trail there would be Pinto ponies, and finally on the Western part of the trail Mustangs. And like the varieties of horses, the express hired a number of men to ride the trails. Men who came from all walks of life, but they needed to be young, thin, and good riders.
The route would change from time to time over the length of the express and not all of the original stations continued in operation throughout the length of the express.

But they knew it wasn't going to be easy, not when they advertised for riders "Orphans Preferred." These men made history! And when the telegraph stretched across the land, the Express riders knew that their jobs were coming to an end. Communication continued on, and the West and East of North America came that much closer and would continue to come closer as time, transportation, and technology continually changed daily life for people in the mid to late 1800s.

(the picture on the right is of a Pony Express saddle and the saddle cover made of leather with pockets for the mail, called a mochila. The wooden saddles were light, made to spare the horses from additional weight, it was the leather covers that were laid over the saddles that would be taken from one horse to another at the different stations.)


  1. The Pony Express always fascinated me. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Great information. Thanks for posting your research. For a short spell, I too worked for the postal service typing bar codes