Fun Facts About The Pony Express

Minolta DSCThe seventh book in my Cotillion Ball Series, Expressly Yours, Samantha, centers on the Pony Express, so I’ll be writing about it a lot in the coming months. But, to start things off, I learned a few things while writing this novel that I didn’t have prior knowledge of, and thought I’d share them with you.

  • The entire route for the Pony Express–nearly 2000 total miles–was cobbled together in only three months’ time. Most of the route, which encompassed the states or territories of Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, Nevada and California followed the Pioneer Trail, but relay stations needed to be created every ten to twenty miles in order to change mounts and, in some cases, riders. Shacks and barns were quickly erected along the route, using whatever supplies were at their disposal.
  • For having such a romantic story behind it, the Pony Express was relatively short-lived. The first run happened in April, 1860 amid much fanfare and the operation’s doors closed in October, 1861. Only eighteen months after it began, the Pony Express was usurped by the telegraph, which completed its coast-to-coast lines and began sending information much more efficiently than the Pony Express did.
  • The reason for the Pony Express’s existence in the first place was because the only route for dissemination of mail from coast to coast in 1860 went through the South, and the government sensed the impending Civil War would disrupt this route, or make certain only select information got through to California. Both the North and the South wanted California’s riches in their column when war did erupt.
  • Riders were essentially the first jockeys, since the total weight carried by the horses had to be no more than 125 pounds. That included the saddle, the mochila, or mail pouch, which weighed twenty pounds, and the rider. The riders were short, wiry and scrappy little guys.
  • Even though Wild Bill Hickok and Buffalo Bill used their connection to the Pony Express to go on to fame and fortune in the Wild West Shows of the late 1800s, only Buffalo Bill was a Pony Express rider. Bill Hickok was too heavy to be a rider, so he ran a supply wagon route between the relay stations.
  • Riders on the Pony Express were romantic heroes to the young ladies in the towns they barreled through on their routes. Legend had it these ladies stood in the streets with offerings of baked goods for the riders to grab on their way through town. The woman who had the least amount left after the rider came through was deemed to be the most popular. To up the ante, one enterprising woman supposedly invented the doughnut hole, making for an easier grab as the rider galloped by.

If these tidbits have piqued your curiosity to find out more about the Pony Express, I highly recommend the following books:

The Saga Of The Pony Express, by Joseph Di Certo

Riders Of The Pony Express, by Ralph Moody

The Pony Express–An Illustrated History, by C.W. Guthrie