‘Wanted: Young, skinny, wiry fellows not over 18. Must be expert riders willing to risk death daily. Orphans preferred.’

Illustrated Map of Pony Express Route in 1860 by William Henry Jackson  ~ Courtesy the Library of Congress ~

Illustrated Map of Pony Express Route in 1860
by William Henry Jackson
~ Courtesy the Library of Congress ~

On April 3, 1860, the Pony Express began its run through parts of Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, Nevada, and California. On average, a rider covered 75 to 100 miles daily. He changed horses at relay stations set 10 to 15 miles apart, swiftly transferring himself and his mochila (a saddle cover with four pockets or cantinas for mail) to the new mount.

The first mail by Pony Express from St. Joseph to Sacramento took ten days, cutting the overland stage time via the southern route by more than half. The fastest delivery was in March 1861, when President Abraham Lincoln’s inaugural address was carried from St. Joseph to Sacramento in 7 days and 17 hours.
On July 1, 1861, the Pony Express began operating under contract as a mail route. By that time, the Central Overland California and Pike’s Peak Express Company was deeply in debt. Though it had charged as much as $5 a half ounce for a letter at a time when ordinary U.S. postage was no more than ten cents, the company did not make its operating expenses.

The Pony Express officially ended October 26, 1861, after the transcontinental telegraph line was completed, and became an enduring legend.

The History of the United States Postal Service: An American History 1775-2006

Title of this post taken from want ad placed in March 1860 for riders.