Seeing the need for a specialized delivery service, Leavenworth and Pike’s Peak Express Company took an opportunity to expand into this void. From this important decision was born one of the most iconic pieces of American History—The Pony Express. No event in American History has captured the imagination of young and old alike, more than the excitement created by those young riders and their horses, as they rode across the western half of our continent.
A Bit of Pony Express History...
The Pony Express debuted at a time before radios and telephones, when California, which achieved statehood in 1850, was still largely cut off from the eastern part of the country. Letters sent from New York to the West Coast traveled by ship, which typically took at least a month, or by stagecoach on the recently established Butterfield Express overland route, which could take from three weeks to many months to arrive. Compared to the snail’s pace of the existing delivery methods, the Pony Express’ average delivery time of 10 days seemed like lightning speed. [Source: This Day in History]
The Pony Express preferred to employ the youngest riders they could, in part for their resilience, and in part for how light they were. The less a man weighed the longer the horse could run and the more cargo the rider could carry. Since the horses could go full tilt for 10 to 15 miles at a stretch before changing, this was of vital importance. The rider changed out every 75 to 100 miles, but the mail never so much as slowed even in the worst of weather. While the average trip from coast to coast (on horseback!) took 10 days, when they delivered Lincoln’s Inaugural Address, the trip was made in a mere 7 days and 17 hours.
Pony Express Museum...
Since 1986, many festivals are being celebrated on August 31st as Pony Express Day. Re-enactments of the Pony Express ride with 1860's historic dress group, demonstrators, food, entertainment, children's circle and more are all part of the festivities. Equestrian events commemorate the challenges the the riders faced. Speaking of equestrian events, let's not forget the true heroes of this endeavor, the horses that carried men and post across the nation time and time again. As for food, chili was one of the staples of the old American West, and as you might imagine there was often a pot of this spicy staple bubbling to keep the riders fed as they came in and out with letters and packages.
For entertainment, get the 1953 movie ‘Pony Express’ featuring Charleston Heston and Rhonda Fleming! This is a classic about this amazing American institution and the trials and efforts of the men and women who fought to make it a reality. Gather together friends and family in celebration of the Pioneer spirit of the Old West!
Giddy up! Ride 'em cowboy!