Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The Men and the Mail of the Pony Express

Christopher Reynolds, in a Los Angeles Times travel piece, followed the historic trail of Pony Express riders from St. Joseph, Mo. to Sacramento, Calif. and reports on the men and the mail they carried.

According to Christopher, "By some accounts, that first load included just 49 letters, five private telegrams, some Eastern newspapers and a bunch of telegraphic dispatches to be printed by Western newspapers. The riders, often teenagers, typically weighed 120 pounds or less, were issued lightweight Bibles and signed an oath that said that 'I will, under no circumstances, use profane language, that I will drink no intoxicating liquors, that I will not quarrel or fight with any other employee of the firm,' and so on."

He goes on to pen, "Pay was $50 to $100 a month (accounts vary). They rode with pistols or a rifle or unarmed. After 25 miles or so, that first rider would trade his horse for a fresh one, and after 100 miles or so, he would hand his letters off to another rider. On they would sprint through Kansas, Nebraska, Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, Nevada and finally California, except for those who died from Indian attack, exposure to the elements or just plain falling off their horses.

"From that first batch of Pony Express mail, historians say, eight letters were addressed to Sacramento, and 25 more were carried aboard the boat to San Francisco. By the last months of the cash-strapped Pony's operations, about 35,000 letters had been carried by its riders."

Shown above, Pony Express rider monument in Old Town Sacramento. Christopher said he thought the statue looked more like Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger than a teenage Pony Express rider.

To read the entire article and watch a video, click here.
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posted by Don Schilling at 12:01 AM