Young, skinny, wiry fellows, not over eighteen, must be expert riders willing to face death daily.
Wages $25 per week
Apply: Pony Express Stables
St Joseph, Missouri
So read the wording of the ad for Pony Express riders.
From Bonneville our route has taken us on the most Loneliest Highway in America from Wendover in Utah via Ely and Eureka to Fallen in Nevada.
The Highway follows the old Pony Express trails from Missouri to San Francisco.
The Pony Express started in 1860 and was set up to deliver mail across the continent. A rider generally rode a horse for 12-15 miles before changing to another horse and would change horses six to eight times before delivering his ‘mochilla’ the leather apron holding the mail on to the next rider and return with a mochilla from the other rider. Post could be delivered in 10 days across the continent.
Telegraph lines replaced the Pony Express after just 18 months and the Pony Express passed in to history. It was a dismal failure for its founders.
The cost of having a letter delivered was prohibitive, costing $5,000 to deliver a half pound letter. A rider was limited to four packages totalling just 10 pounds.
Every neck is stretched and every eye strained… across the endless prairie a black spec appears… in a second or two it becomes a horse and rider, rising and falling… sweeping towards us… growing more and more distinct and the flutter of hoofs comes faintly to the ear… another instant a whoop and a hurray from our upper deck, a wave of the riders hand, but no reply, as man and horse burst past our excited faces and go winging away like a bedevilled fragment of a storm..
– Mark Twain in 1872 – “Travelling in the Overland Stage”.