The Pony Express
Long ago, there were no telephones or radios. There were no televisions or computers. There were no airplanes or cars. It was hard to get news all the way to California.
People who lived in California needed a quick way to get mail and news from the East. People wanted news about their friends and families. They also wanted to know what was happening in other places in the country.
Three people started a company called the Pony Express. The Pony Express carried mail and news throughout the West. On April 3, 1860, one Pony Express rider rode west from St. Joseph, Missouri. St. Joseph was the last stop for trains coming from the East. On the same day, another rider rode east from Sacramento, California. Both young men carried four bags of mail. The Pony Express was much faster than the stagecoach. A stagecoach took one month to deliver mail. A Pony Express rider could do it in ten days.
The Pony Express hired young men. They were often younger than 18 years old. They were skinny, too. No rider could weigh more than 120 pounds. That helped their ponies run longer and faster.
The Pony Express ponies were mustangs. These were small, wild horses. The horses were less than five feet tall. They galloped almost twelve miles an hour. The horses were smart. They learned their routes fast.
Besides riders, other people helped run the Pony Express. Some people worked at stations. One of their jobs was to take care of the company's horses. Riders picked up fresh horses when they stopped at stations.
The riders and the people who worked at the stations faced many dangers. One was the weather. Snowstorms slowed riders crossing the high mountains. Sandstorms slowed riders crossing the long, dry deserts. Wild animals like wolves were another danger. The riders also had to protect themselves from bandits. Bandits tried to steal horses. They also took whatever money the riders were carrying.
Still, there were young men willing to ride for the Pony Express. Together, they covered 2,000 miles of land. A rider would leave one station and gallop to another. At his first stop, he slipped the mail cover off the saddle. He threw it on the saddle of a new horse. Then he was off again. This took about two minutes. Each rider rode 60 to 80 miles. He stopped every 15 to 25 miles to get a fresh horse. At the end of his trip, a fresh rider on a fresh horse took his place. The first rider stayed at his last station until it was time for his next job.
The Pony Express was successful. It delivered the mail faster than stagecoaches. But it only lasted about one and one-half years. It stopped running when telegraph wires reached California. By October 1861, the Pony Express closed its doors. Its riders and horses were no longer needed.