People in CaliforniaPeople in California wanted mail.
The telegraph line was not connected that far west in 1860, and trains did not pass the Missouri river. It took almost took a month to get a letter by ship or stage coach. That’s why the Pony Express was started.
In the mid 1800’s gold was discovered in California. Thousands of people hitched their wagons and headed west for the chance of striking it rich. The state of California grew from about 20,000 to 500,000 people in 5 years. They wanted the conveniences they had back east, especially regular mail service. The railroad and telegraph lines did not reach California, and ships and stage coaches took too long. Finally, in 1860 plans for a 10 day mail route using horses was introduced and called the Pony Express.
An ad in many newspapers across the states read:WantedYoung, skinny, wiry, fellows not over eighteen. Must be expert riders willing to risk death daily. Orphans preferred. Wages $25.00 per week.The advertisement was luring. Twenty-five dollars a week was a high salary at that time and being a rider was a glamourous job. Hundreds of young men answered the ad but only 80 were chosen.
Those 80 riders had to have high moral standards and take an oath that said that said that they wouldn’t drink, fight or use profane language.Despite the oath, it is difficult to imagine theseriders not uttering some colorful language when being hotly pursued by Indians. To protect themselves against Indian attacks the riders were given two revolvers, a shotgun, a knife, and a bible. After awhile they couldn’t find room for the bible or the shotgun so they dumped them.
They were also given horns to sound their arrival to a station but found them unnecessary figuring that the hoofbeats were lounder than the horns so the horns were dumped also.In the beginning the pony riders had a uniform. Red shirts, slouch hats, and denim jeans tucked into their boots. After awhile the uniforms were abandoned and the riders wore whatever was most comfortable.The first run started in St. Joseph, Missouri on April 3, 1860.
Johnny Frey the first carrier would ride as fast as possible for about 75 miles stopping every 10-15 miles at a station for a fresh horse and then pass the mail to another rider. The next rider would travel 75 miles and pass it to another rider and so on for day and night for 2,000 miles and 10 days. Mail would travel both ways, east and west, once or twice a week.
When the mail arrived in California all work was abandoned. Everyone wanted to hear from their relatives and friends from back east. The rider was the most welcome sight in California.The Pony Express lasted for 18 months, 308 runs, and 34,753 pieces of mail. Day by day the telegraph wire was stretched further west and the Pony Express become less and less important. Along with that and a little bad management the Pony Express ended on November 21, 1861.
The riders had given the United States a vital service for 18 months.