History of the Pony Express

Image a time when you did not have access to the internet. You could not text, e-mail or send a message to another person across the country like you can today. In fact, you could not even send a letter to someone on the opposite coast. The United States faced this dilemma on how to get information and documents from one side of the country to the other.

During the early years of the United States, it was a fast-growing country. From the original thirteen states when the Declaration of Independence was signed, through a series of acquisitions the country expanded from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean. The expansion saw the population of the country start to move westward for new opportunities that now became available. This expansion led to the problem of how to transport information to the newly settled area. The solution that came about was the Pony Express.

Originated on April 1, 1860, the service was established to deliver mail to newly settled areas of the country. It started by delivering mail and small parcels using a relay system of horseback riders. They utilized a route that started in St. Joseph, Missouri and ended in Sacramento, California. The couriers that were hired rode through the plains, prairies, mountains and the deserts of the western section of the United States. With the new distribution system in place, mail delivery from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean was reduced to about a ten-day time frame.

The Pony Express riders utilized that path that was known as the Oregon Trail. With a trail of over 1900 miles, stations were established about every ten miles. The Express riders used horses to go from station to station. At the pre-determined location, a rider would hand the mail to another rider who will continue on the trail. The shorter distance allowed the riders to go at the fast pace for their route segment.

While the Pony Express only ran for eighteen months, it was a vital step in connecting both coasts of the United States. After the end of the service in October 1861, communication and between the east and west coasts could be delivered faster and more efficiently via telegraph.

The Pony Express was also the impetus behind other communication and transportation networks. The ideas of using existing routes and various stations along the way was the way that coast to coast mail service was established by the U.S. Postal Service. And it was also the idea for Fed Ex, UPS and other parcel delivery services.