The Story Of The Pony Express

Logistics is something we take for granted in today’s world, but not too long ago, getting packages from point A to B was an adventurous and risky affair. Let’s take a fun journey back in time to explore the Pony Express, one of the United States’ first-ever delivery services!

The Pony Express, a fascinating slice of American history, was a brief mail service running from 1860 to 1861. It turned cross-country communication into a 10-day adventure before the telegraph’s faster arrival, although it ultimately declared bankruptcy.

Imagine a chain of 186 stations, spaced just 10 to 15 miles apart, where riders would swap horses and carry the all-important mochila (mail pouch) weighing a total of 165 pounds. These riders, weighing no more than 125 pounds themselves, changed every 75-100 miles, often riding for over 20 hours. Surprisingly, they earned a robust $125 a month, far more than the typical wages of their time. To put this in perspective, this would be a monthly paycheck of 4600 dollars in today’s currency. Where your peers would earn an average of 600 dollars.

Riding for the Pony Express was no walk in the park – they needed to be tough and lightweight. An amusing advertisement once read, “Wanted: Young, skinny, wiry fellows not over eighteen. Must be expert riders, willing to risk death daily. Orphans preferred.”

In its short existence, the Pony Express delivered around 35,000 letters between St. Joseph and Sacramento. However, its financial fortunes weren’t as impressive, leading to its closure in October 1861. Despite only grossing $90,000 in revenue, it managed to accumulate a staggering loss of $200,000.

After the conclusion of the Civil War in 1866, Holladay, the owner of the Pony Express, sold its assets, along with what remained of the Butterfield Stage, to Wells Fargo for a sum of $1.5 million. Ah, the quirks of history!