Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Wednesday Western - Pony Express

Pony Express statue in St. Joseph, Missouri
The Pony Express was in existence for a short duration- one year, seven months and three days. It began on April 3, 1860 moving mail from St. Joseph,Missouri to San Francisco, California until November 20, 1861.

They advertised they could deliver mail from St. Joseph to San Francisco in ten days. But the first run was better than that, taking nine day sand twenty-two hours. A half-ounce letter via Wells Fargo cost $1.00 more than via the Pony Express which cost $5.00 plus the U.S. postage required.

It was the completion of the transcontinental telegraph line to Salt Lake City on October 24, 1861 that ended the Pony Express. Information could be carried faster by the telegraph lines than by the low flying ponies of the Pony Express.

To make the endeavor work 120 riders, 184 stations , 400 horses, and several hundred personnel were needed along the route. The riders rode at a lope for ten miles between the stations, where riders took the padlocked mail pouch and traded horses before riding on. The job was so dangerous the riders were paid $25 a week compared to the average laborer who received $1 a week.

You not only had to be a good rider you needed to be small and agile so the horse could run easily. The horses were no taller than 14 1/2 hands and weighed around 900 pounds. This was why they were termed the Pony express. The riders were no more than 125 pounds and the horse was not to carry more than 165 pounds. That included 20 pounds of mail and 20 pounds of "materials". The "materials" were a water sack, Bible, horn to alert the station you were coming, revolver, and a rifle. The riders rode 75-100 miles day and night on their leg of the trip. If there was an emergency they would sometimes have to do a back to back ride.

18 comments:

Tanya Hanson said...

Great post, Paty. Some years back, I was totally enamored of a TV show about the Pony Express. What a time it was!

Kirsten Arnold said...

Love this post, Paty! The Pony Express is such an icon of the west it always surprises me when I'm reminded it was around for such a short amount of time. 75-100 miles...amazing.

Christine Ashworth said...

Fun stuff, Paty! I knew some of this - my dad writes westerns, and used to talk about his research at the dinner table - but I'd forgotten that the Pony Express was short-lived.

Great website, too, btw!

Andrea Downing said...

Loved this, Paty. I only recently learned how short-lived the Pony Express had been while researching my own novel--seems strange that it has entered the American consciousness with such impact.

Nina Pierce said...

I had no idea it was so short lived. What an interesting post.

Paty Jager said...

Hi Tanya, Yes, it was an exciting time. Can you imagine being one of the riders?

Hi Kristen. That many miles makes my bottom hurt! LOL But they were wiry riders who were used to the hours in a saddle.

Hey Christine! Thanks for checking out the website. Did you notice the monthly contest...

Hi Andrea. It is remarkable at how iconic it is when it was less than two years in existence.

Hi Nina, Thanks!

Vicki Batman, said...

This was very informative, Paty. Thank you for posting. You always have good info.

Diana Mcc. said...

Great post, Paty! I was surprised when I first learned what a short time the Pony Express was in service.

Paty Jager said...

Thanks Vicki, I try to give people interesting info.

Hi Diana! Thanks!

Caroline Clemmons said...

Had not idea the cost of a letter was so high. Meant many people could not send mail, didn't it?

Debby Lee said...

Hi Paty, the Pony Express may have been short lived but the legends and the stories live on. I too loved the television show, The Young Riders, about the Pony Express. Thanks for sharing some interesting facts and details about the Pony Express.

Ella Quinn said...

Great post. I did not know the Pony Express was in existance for so short a period.

Paty Jager said...

Caroline, From what I gathered it was mostly businesses and government that used the Pony Express. The average person didn't need to send a correspondence as quickly.

Hey Debby! Thanks for stopping in. I agree it was short lived but long remembered.

Thanks, Ella!

Ilona Fridl said...

Paty, I've always loved the tales about the Pony Express. I'd love to visit the station in St. Joseph. I hear that's an interesting museum.

Sarah Raplee said...

Hi Paty,

Do I sense a book idea here?

Sarah

Paty Jager said...

Ilona, that museum is on my list of places to visit too.

Sarah, Funny you should ask... I actually had an idea come to me when I was doing the research. ;)

Genene Valleau, writing as Genie Gabriel said...

Hi, Paty! Like most other commenters, I didn't realize the Pony Express was in existence such a short time. Amazing that most people have heard of it--quite a legend! Thanks for the interesting post!

Paty Jager said...

Hey Genene!

You're welcome!