Pony Express

Pony Express advertisement
Pony Express Postmark, 1860, westbound

The Pony Express was a mail service delivering messages, newspapers, and mail.

Officially operating as the Leavenworth and Pike's Peak Express Company of 1859, in 1860 it became the Central Overland California and Pikes Peak Express Company; this firm was founded by William H. Russell, Alexander Majors, and William B. Waddell, all of whom were notable in the freighting business.[1]

During its 18 months of operation, it reduced the time for messages to travel between the Atlantic and Pacific coasts to about 10 days.[2] From April 3, 1860 to October 1861, it became the West's most direct means of east–west communication before the transcontinental telegraph was established (October 24, 1861), and was vital for tying the new state of California with the rest of the United States.

Inception and founding

Alexander Majors

The idea of a fast mail route to the Pacific coast was prompted largely by California's newfound prominence and its rapidly growing population. After gold was discovered there in 1848, thousands of prospectors, investors and businessmen made their way to California, at that time a new territory of the U.S. By 1850, California entered the Union as a free state. By 1860, the population had grown to 380,000.[3] The demand for a faster way to get mail and other communications to and from this westernmost state became even greater as the American Civil War approached.

In the late 1850s, William Russell, Alexander Majors, and William Waddell were the three founders of the Pony Express. They were already in the freighting and drayage business. At the peak of the operations, they employed 6,000 men, owned 75,000 oxen, thousands of wagons, and warehouses plus a sawmill, a meatpacking plant, a bank and an insurance company.[4]

Russell was a prominent businessman, well respected among his peers and the community.[citation needed] Waddell was co-owner of the firm Morehead, Waddell & Co. After Morehead was bought out and retired, Waddell merged his company with Russell's, changing the name to Waddell & Russell. In 1855 they took on a new partner, Alexander Majors, and founded the company of Russell, Majors & Waddell.[5] They held government contracts for delivering army supplies to the western frontier, and Russell had a similar idea for contracts with the U.S. Government for fast mail delivery.[6]

By utilizing a short route and using mounted riders rather than traditional stagecoaches, they proposed to establish a fast mail service between St. Joseph, Missouri, and Sacramento, California, with letters delivered in 10 days, a duration many said was impossible. The initial price was set at $5 per 12 ounce (14 g), then $2.50, and by July 1861 to $1. The founders of the Pony Express hoped to win an exclusive government mail contract, but that did not come about.

Russell, Majors, and Waddell organized and put together the Pony Express in two months in the winter of 1860. The undertaking assembled 120 riders, 184 stations, 400 horses, and several hundred personnel during January and February 1861.[7]

Majors was a religious man and resolved "by the help of God" to overcome all difficulties. He presented each rider with a special edition Bible and required this oath,[8][9] which they were also required to sign.[10]

I, ..., do hereby swear, before the Great and Living God, that during my engagement, and while I am an employee of Russell, Majors, and Waddell, I will, under no circumstances, use profane language, that I will drink no intoxicating liquors, that I will not quarrel or fight with any other employee of the firm, and that in every respect I will conduct myself honestly, be faithful to my duties, and so direct all my acts as to win the confidence of my employers, so help me God."

— Oath sworn by Pony Express Riders[11][12]

The Pony Express demonstrated that a unified transcontinental system of communications could be established and operated year-round. When replaced by the telegraph, the Pony Express quickly became romanticized and became part of the lore of the American West. Its reliance on the ability and endurance of individual young, hardy riders and fast horses was seen as evidence of rugged American individualism of the Frontier times.

From 1866 until 1889, the Pony Express logo was used by stagecoach and freight company Wells Fargo, which provided secure mail service. The United States Postal Service (USPS) used "Pony Express" as a trademark for postal services in the US.[13] Freight Link international courier services, based in Russia, adopted the Pony Express trademark and a logo similar to that of the USPS.[14]

Other Languages
العربية: بوني إكسبرس
asturianu: Pony Express
български: Пони Експрес
català: Pony Express
čeština: Pony Express
Deutsch: Pony-Express
español: Pony Express
Esperanto: Poneo-Ekspreso
euskara: Pony Express
français: Pony Express
galego: Pony Express
italiano: Pony Express
Nederlands: Pony Express
polski: Pony Express
português: Pony Express
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Pony Express
українська: Поні-експрес