Pony Express

Pony Express

The Pony Express is a fascinating part of the history of the American West, and you can learn more about its success and failures at California Trail Interpretive Center. The name “Pony Express” is just a nickname for the Central Overland California & Pike’s Peak Express Company. That’s only one fun fact about the Pony Express, and there is so much more!

An Ambitious Beginning

The Pony Express was founded by William Russell, Alexander Majors, and William Waddell in the winter of 1860. These three men and business partners were already successful shippers, and they were able to create a plan and assemble riders in just two short months. Demand for mail in the new state of California was a growing market, and with Civil War looming on the horizon, the three men felt they had a winning idea. They hoped their venture would capture the interest of the government and land them a mail contract, but that never happened. Still, getting a letter from Missouri to Sacramento in 10 days was an impressive and ambitious venture.

Along the California Trail

The route chosen for the Pony Express ran along much of the route of the California Trail, used for westward emigration. The company took advantage of setting up stations along the way, and paying for space in some already established forts and stops on the trail. Both the California Trail and the Pony Express ended at Sutter’s Fort in Sacramento. Some of the locations on the trail included:

  • Scotts Bluff
  • Fort Bridger
  • Salt Lake City
  • Ruby Valley
  • Sutter’s Fort

A Historical Legacy

Though the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad put the Pony Express out of business after only 18 months of operation, the historical legacy of the horse and rider relay teams live on in our imaginations. By the end of its service, there were 184 stations on the historic trail, with riders averaging 75 miles before switching out. They rode through attacks from neighboring Native American tribe, scorching sun, and frigid cold. Their legacy is etched into our hearts and the history of the West.

Learn More

Though there are not many pieces of Pony Express mail that survived, you can learn about the history of this fascinating mail service and so much more at the California Trail Interpretive Center. You can even visit one of the stations located nearby in Ruby Valley. Plan your visit today.