The Anniversary of P-mail

Today marks the 152nd anniversary of the first delivery by The Pony Express.  The first packets left simultaneously from St. Joseph, Missouri, and Sacramento, California. Ten days later, the Missouri rider completed the approximately 1,800-mile journey and arrived in Sacramento, thus setting a new standard for speedy mail delivery. In those days, letters sent to California from the East Coast typically went by ship (which took a month or more) or overland stage (much longer).  Compared to existing delivery methods of the day, the 10-day delivery times of the Pony Express must have seemed like lightning speed.

The Pony Express Company was the brainchild of William H. Russell, William Bradford Waddell and Alexander Majors, who set up over 150 relay stations along a pioneer trail across the present-day states of Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, Nevada and California. Riders were paid approximately $25 per week and carried loads estimated at up to 20 pounds of mail, rode 75 to 100 miles, with horses switched out every 10 to 15 miles.  The initial cost of Pony Express delivery was $5 for every half-ounce of mail.  By the end period of the Pony Express, the price had dropped to $1.00 per half-ounce. The company’s riders set their fastest time with Lincoln’s inaugural address, which was delivered in just less than eight days.

With the advent of the first transcontinental telegraph line in October 1861, the Pony Express ceased operations, just 18 months after its first delivery.   Today, we pretty much take email for granted; but in its day, ‘pmail’ was pretty hot stuff.  

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