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Pony Express

James Buchanan

Pony Express: James Buchanan was the 15th American President who served in office from March 4, 1857 to March 4, 1861. One of the important events during his presidency was the Pony Express.

Definition and Summary of the Pony Express
Summary and definition:
What was the Pony Express? The Pony Express was a mail service operating from St. Joseph in Missouri all the way west to Sacramento. Riders rode in relay delivering mail across 2000 miles in 10 days. The Pony Express started in April 3, 1860 and ended in October 24, 1861 with the completion of the Transcontinental Telegraph.

Although the Pony Express was only in operation for 18 months the exploits of its brave riders, including William F. Cody, "Buffalo Bill", have become an important event in the legends of the Wild West

The Pony Express Route
ThePony Express route covered a distance of 2,000 miles stretches. The Pony Express crossed eight different states: California, Nevada, Utah, Wyoming, Colorado, Nebraska, Kansas and Missouri.

The Pony Express
Where did the Pony Express start and end? The starting point was in the east at St. Joseph, Missouri and ended in the west at Sacramento, California. However riders started each end of the route simultaneously.

The Reason the Pony Express was Established
The Pony Express was established following the migration of many people to California following the California Gold Rush and the  discovery of silver in Nevada in 1859. Temporary solutions were needed to improve communications between the east and the west until the Transcontinental Telegraph was completed. The Pony Express service was only in existence for 18 months before instant communication via the telegraph was made possible. But the exploits of the brave, determined pioneering spirit of the riders ensured that the Pony Express would forever hold an important place in the History of the United States and part of the legend of the American West. 

Pony Express Mail Service
The Pony Express mail service was originally scheduled for once a week in each direction, but after a few months it was extended and riders left St. Joseph, in Missouri, and Sacramento, in California, twice a week.

Pony Express Facts for kids: FAQ's
There are several FAQ's (frequently asked questions) asked about the Pony Express and this is a good place to start when learning about fast and interesting facts about this important event in the history of the United States.

When was the Purpose of the Pony Express? Its purpose was to provide a fast mail service from the Atlantic coast in the east to the Pacific coast of California in the west 

What did the Pony Express carry? Its riders carried mail, messages, newspapers and small parcels

Who started the Pony Express? The names of the three founders were William Russell, Alexander Importants and William Waddell

When did the Pony Express start? It started on April 3, 1860

When did the Pony Express end? The service only ran for 18 months and ended on October 24, 1861

Who were the Pony Express Riders? The job called for "Young, skinny, wiry fellows, not over 18. Must be expert riders"

What was the Pony Express motto? The famous motto was "The mail must go through."

The Route: Where did the Pony Express start and where did it end? The route started from St. Joseph, Missouri and ended IN Sacramento, California

What were the Pony Express stations? The stations were relay points along the route where the riders would quickly change their horse for fresh steeds. Some relay stops were 'home stations'

Why did the Pony Express end? It ended when the Transcontinental Telegraph was completed

The Pony Express Riders: The 24/7 Service
Each of the riders had their own starting point and finishing point.
The distance was divided into a series of relays 75 to 100 miles from one Home Station to the next. The Pony Express rider would race, changing his horse every 10-20 miles before handing the mail to the rider from the opposite direction at the next Home station. After the exchange of mail bags the Pony Express rider would then take his mail, and return to his starting point. The actual mail carried by the Pony Express riders therefore covered about 250 miles every day by working in relay shifts who raced all through the day and the night. The Pony Express was one of the first US businesses to offer a  24/7 service; 24 hours a day 7 days a week. To put the speed of the Pony Express into perspective, a stagecoach would take 50 days to cover 2000 miles compared to just 10 days via the Pony Express.

Pony Express Facts for kids
Interesting Pony Express facts for kids are detailed below. The history of Pony Express is told in a factual sequence consisting of a series of short facts providing a simple method of relating the experiences of the riders who delivered mail along the Pony Express route.

Riders were given a uniform of red shirts and blue pants but these were often discarded and replaced with buckskins

Riders were kitted out with a pistol, a bugle, a rifle, gloves, boots and a Bible. As a rider approached a station he would blow his bugle, alerting the stocktender to prepare a fresh horse

Every rider had to take utmost care of the mochila (lightweight saddlebag) that contained the mail quick and efficient when transferring from one horse to another

The mail pockets of the mochila were called "cantinas", which were locked with a type of small padlock. The mochila had four locked compartments for the mail

Security: The only keys for the mail pockets of the mochila were at St. Joseph and Sacramento, and only the agents at each end could open the mochila

The rider had to swear an oath on the Bible promising honesty and devotion to duty

Each station employed two men who attended the horses

The rider could change horses in 2 minutes

The route had more than 100 stations, 80 riders and between 400-500 horses

The wages of the riders were $25 per week - the job paid well but their were many dangers

Dangers: The hazards and dangers included attacks from hostile Native Americans, robbers, extreme weather conditions, hazardous terrains

The name of the first rider was John Upson

During the 18 months it operated riders had covered 650,000 miles and carried 34,753 pieces of mail. Only one mail delivery was ever lost.

The mail service was under the direction of the Central Overland California and Pike's Peak Express Company.

Important items of news were spread by the service including the election of Abraham Lincoln  in 1860 and the outbreak of the American Civil War in 1861 reached California via the Pony Express.

The mail service was very expensive (e.g., $1-$5 per half ounce)

Buffalo Bill: William F. Cody, "Buffalo Bill",  who later became famous for his Wild West Show, is the most well-known of all the riders and was said to have covered 384 miles without any real rest period

Wild Bill Hickok: Wild Bill Hickok was a friend of "Buffalo Bill" and worked as a stocktender for the Rock Creek Pony Express station

On May 9, 1860 Pony Bob Haslam made an historic run of 380 miles between Friday’s station and Smith’s Creek station. It was a brave run as Paiutes were attacking his part of the route, the Paiute uprising erupted in May 1860

The only rider to refuse to do a run was Johnson Richardson, because of the danger of the Paiutes

Wells Fargo became the temporary agent for the western route until the Overland Mail Company took over

Mail was first covered with oiled silk before being placed in the mail pockets "cantinas" so they wouldn’t be damaged by water or sweat

It was important to keep the weight on the horse down and the specially designed saddle with its mochila weighed less than 13 pounds

Riders had to weigh less than 125 lbs and their age ranged from 11 to the mid-40s

Youngest Rider: According to legend Bronco Charlie Miller was eleven years old when he first rode for the mail service

The Fastest Run: The Fastest Run was made in 7 days and 17 hours carrying news of President Lincoln's Inaugural Address

The founders of the service, William H. Russell, William B. Waddell, and Alexander Importants went bankrupt

The government contract had stipulated the service would be discontinued after the Overland Telegraph Company completed its construction of the telegraph line

Their company was sold at auction to Ben Holladay in March 1862. Four years later Holladay sold out to Wells Fargo for $2,000,000.

The regular service was discontinued in October 1861, when the Pacific Telegraph Company completed its line to San Francisco

US American History
1850-1865: Secession Era

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