On April 3, Johnny Fry galloped out of St. Joseph, Missouri, carrying a satchel of mail and the hopes of a new company—the Pony Express. At the same time , another rider, Billy Hamilton, left Sacramento, California, bringing mail east.
On the 1966-mile ride, horses and riders were changed dozens of time. Finally, on April 13, the west-bound rider arrived in Sacramento, beating the east-bound mail by two days.
Pony Express Facts
During its eighteen-month existence, the Pony Express hired a little over 100 young riders who flocked to ads such as these in local newspapers: “Wanted. Young, skinny, wiry fellows. Not over 18. Must be expert riders. Willing to risk death daily. Orphans preferred.”
Mail was carried day and night, in all seasons, some of it private letters, some critically important news like the fall of Fort Sumter. Only one rider and one mail pouch was ever lost. Although short-lived, the Pony Express captivated the American imagination.
- Riders’ Pay: $100 per month.
- Rider Relay: New riders took over every 75 to 100 miles.
- Horse Relay: Riders got a fresh horse every 10 to 15 miles.
- Speed: Horses traveled an average of 10 miles per hour.
- Horses: 400 horses purchased to stock the Pony Express route.
- Stations: Approximately 165 stations.
- Route: St. Joseph, Missouri to Sacramento, California. Through the present day states of Kansas, Nebraska, northeast corner of Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, Nevada, and California.
- Departure: Once a week from April 3 to mid-June 1860. Twice a week from mid-June, to late October 1861. Departures were from both the east and the west.
- Schedule: 10 days in summer. 12 to 16 days in winter.
- Fastest Delivery: 7 days and 17 hours between telegraph lines, delivering Lincoln’s Inaugural Address.
- Cost of Mail: $5.00 per 1/2 ounce at the beginning. By the end of the Pony Express, the price had dropped to $1.00 per 1/2 ounce.