5 Things You May Not Know About The Pony Express

On April 3, 1860, the Pony Express began on a 2,000-mile route to deliver mail using relay riders from St. Joseph, Missouri, to Sacramento, California. The Trivia Today team pulled together these five riveting facts about The Pony Express...

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Mail Was Delivered Really Fast for Those Days Pony Express riders swept through eight states in only 10 days on horseback, while riding at about 10 mph. The routes started in Missouri and went through Kansas, Nebraska, Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, and Nevada, ultimately ending up in California. This represents a distance of an astonishing 1,966 miles! A stagecoach in those days took 24 days to make the same trip.

It Wasn't Cheap The speed of the Pony Express didn’t come cheap. In its early days the service cost $5 for every half-ounce of mail—the equivalent of approximately $130 today. Prices were later reduced to just $1, but they still remained too high for everyday mail. Instead, the service was mainly used to deliver newspaper reports, government dispatches and business documents, most of which were printed on tissue-thin paper to keep costs (and weight) down.

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It Took Many Horses to Deliver The Mail Quickly Riders for the Pony Express normally rode from 75 to 100 miles at a time but changed horses frequently, so their mounts would be fresh. Because the stations were located around 10 miles apart, this is where they changed to fresh horses. Since they changed horses as many as 10 times during each ride, the Pony Express kept up to 400 horses for that purpose.

The Pony Express Operated for Only About 18 Months The Pony Express began on April 3, 1860, but operated only until October 26, 1861. One of the things that helped to shut it down was the transcontinental telegraph line, which connected cities in the East Coast to California. The telegraph line was completed two days before the Pony Express closed down. Despite operating for only 19 months, its riders had successfully delivered some 35,000 pieces of mail and traveled more than half a million miles across the American frontier.  

Interested People Can Still Follow the Pony Express Making Their Run The National Pony Express Association uses riders to make the run from Sacramento to St. Joseph, Missouri, every even-numbered year in June and from St. Joseph to Sacramento every odd-numbered year. Interested parties can follow the National Pony Express Association along the riders’ route using either a mobile device or computer. They can even send a letter along, which is stamped "Pony Express" in the cancellation. It takes about 650 volunteer riders to make the trip. In 2020, the cost to send one of these letters is $5.