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America's First Postal Service: The Pony Express

Updated on October 3, 2010

Back in the beginning, even before the first transcontinental telegraph service connecting the East Coast with the West Coast, getting a letter from New York City to San Francisco was a daunting affair requiring weeks or longer. If you tried to send it to London from New York, it would over month. Unlike today, there was NO instant communication except face to face.

The Pony Express was America's fastest way to get a letter from the east to west coast, which was a large relay of young men on horses riding fast with US Mail to a point where a  "hand off" would occur to another postal rider, which would continue on across America. All total, 183 riders, men of 20 yrs and 120 lbs did the job. Each trip took some 80 riders and 400 horses traveling day and night in all weather. They switched horses every 10-15 miles and switched riders every 75-100 miles at any one of the 165 stations that formed a chain. The riders averages about 10 mph. A trip from coast to coast took 10 days in the summer and 16 days in the winter. The fastest recorded trip was a slamming 7 days and 10 hrs.

Service was infrequent between cities, for instance, mail arrived in Sacramento from Missouri once a week. The cost was a pricey $5 per half ounce, initially. After a time, the price was dropped to $1 per half ounce. In those days, that was considerable money to spend to send a letter.

The Pony Express ended on Oct 26, 1861, upon the arrival of the telegraph which connected SF to NY. Finally, instant communication! (well, sort of).


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    • perrya profile image

      perrya 6 years ago


    • alocsin profile image

      alocsin 6 years ago from Orange County, CA

      Love this quick intro to the Pony Express. Linking this to my Postal Service jobs hub, and voting this Up and Useful.