STAMPS TO KNOWLEDGE

PONY EXPRESS

Though it lasted but 19 months the Pony Express will last forever in American History .

The Pony Express Trail
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   It all began in one man's mind,William H. Russell he saw a need for faster cross country mail delivery. Russell had two partners Alexander Majors  & William B. Waddell, forming the Russell,Majors & Waddell Freight company in 1854. The three partners working out of Leavenworth in the new Kansas Territory, the firm was the unchallenged giant of the Freight Industry in the West.They hauled millions of pounds of supplies each year using thousands of oxen, thousands of men, and hundreds of wagons.William Russell had an idea, that with the discovery of gold in what is now Colorado,he proposed  a Stage Line from the Mississippi Valley to Denver to cash in on the boom that was to come. But his partners flatly rejected the Idea.Russell undeterred found a new associate and in 1859  began operations of his Leavenworth & Pike's Peak Express Co.,  in July of that year. He added a Mail Route from St Joseph Missouri to Salt Lake City. Even with the added revenues he seemed to be doomed right from the start, with operating  costs running far ahead of revenues. Majors and Waddell bought out the L&PP due to fears of Russell ( who still had an interest in the Freight lines) going bankrupt and bringing down their business along with his.Soon after the take over they expanded its operations to Placerville California.Changing its name to the new Central Overland,California & Pike's Peak Express. They still were not generating any profits and were concerned that they could lose everything.Only one thing could save the Company & its owners. A substantial mail subsidy from the government.                                                                  
 

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Cachet by Phillipsburg Inserters for Bell & Howell Co.

 Once more, Russell had an Idea. Just who first conceived the notion of the Pony Express --is unknown but it was Russell who decided to adopt it and giving his partners no chance to say no, he was off to Washington. In January 1860 he sent this Telegram to Leavenworth "Have determined to establish a Pony Express to Sacramento, California, commencing the 3rd of April. Time 10 days." AND so it was born.
   Starting on April 3rd, 1860 through October 1861, the riders of the Pony Express galloped a total of 650,000 miles, carried 34,753 pieces of mail losing only 1 mail sack.The route consisted of 190 relay stations, 25 home station,where riders were changed, 165 swing stations for changing horses. The original purchase of horses called for 500 head to be bought for $200.00 for each one of them. They would change horses every  10 to15 miles,at the swing station.Switch riders approximately every 75 miles, at either a relay or Home station. The route from St. Joseph, Missouri to Sacramento, California, the trip of 1,966 miles,would take  about 10 days. A record was set  in March 1861 when the riders laid on the whip to bring the news of President Lincoln's inaugural address to California.It took them only 7 days & 17 hours.The average age of an expressman was 19 years. Only 2 were younger, David Jay was 13 when he first rode & William F.Cody was 15 (Later known as Buffalo Bill Cody). Buffalo Bill once rode 322 miles round trip because his relief rider had been killed. They would face dangerous terrain,Indians,desert heat,
blinding wind, snow storms, bone chilling cold, and green immigrants fearful of Indian attacks would fire on them thinking they were on suicide attacks as they went streaking by.The ad for riders would read "Seeking riders who are small in stature, young men, daring, preferably orphans". You also had to take an oath not to drink or swear while on duty.The first rider for the Pony Express was Johnny Frey leaving St.Joe on April 3rd,1860.He made his ride and turned over the mail about 50 miles out and other relay riders carried it into Salt Lake City in 6 days. The would, within 2 minutes of their arrival at a relay station be on a fresh horse and away again.The only weapons carried by a rider were pistols and a knife in order to save weight, and some didn't even carry those. The leather mail sack  was thrown over the saddle.  It was a square piece of leather with 4 pockets, 1 in each of its corners. The riders would sit on it with 2 pockets in front and 2 behind them. The mail sack  was known as a "mochila".
 The firm had invested $700,000.00 in the mail venture. They lost $200,000.00 and never received a penny from the government for the public service they performed. As glamorous as it seemed The Pony Express could not persuade Congress to subsidize a central mail route, and thus only added to its eventual demise along with the coming of the Civil War, telegragh, Railroads, Wells Fargo, and some unfortunate temptations on Mr.Russells part.
The Pony Express proved to be a bold undertaking, that left a rich heritage, and a stirring example of the American pragmatic approach to the problem of conquering distance & time.

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This ad is from the SanFrancisco Call 1856 to 1895 originally called the Morning Call

Text excerpts taken from Readers Digest "Story of the Great American West"

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