Pony Express, mail service operating between Saint Joseph, Missouri, and Sacramento, California, inaugurated on April 3, 1860, under the direction of the Central Overland California and Pike\'s Peak Express Company.

At that time, regular mail delivery took up to three weeks to cross the continent. The Pony Express carried mail rapidly overland on horseback the nearly 2000 miles between St. Joseph and Sacramento; the schedule allowed ten days for the trip. The mail was then carried by boat to San Francisco. Stations averaging at first 40 km (25 mi) apart were established, and each rider was expected to cover 120 km (75 mi) a day. Pony Express riders were usually lightweight young men, often teenagers. Special saddle bags that could be moved to a fresh horse very quickly at a change station were used. Buffalo Bill was a famous Pony Express rider.

Eventually, the Pony Express had more than 100 stations, 80 riders, and between 400 and 500 horses. The express route was extremely hazardous, but only one mail delivery was ever lost. The Pony Express is credited with helping to keep California in the Union by providing rapid communication between the two coasts. News of the election of Abraham Lincoln to the United States presidency in 1860 and of the outbreak of the American Civil War in 1861 reached California via the Pony Express. The regular Pony Express service was discontinued in October 1861, after the Pacific Telegraph Company completed its line to San Francisco.

The Pony Express was developed by William H. Russell, William B. Waddell, and Alexander Majors. Financially, the Pony Express was a failure, leading its founders to bankruptcy. However, the drama surrounding the Pony Express made it a part of the legend of the American West.


Pony Express, Microsoft® Encarta® Online Encyclopedia 2000
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