Today is the 155th anniversary of the Pony Express, a venture that ultimately left the owners in bankruptcy, but is also a cherished part of American history. Here are some interesting facts courtesy of Kate Kelly’s America Comes Alive site:
- The Pony Express began in 1860 and only existed for eleven month.
- The official name of the Pony Express was The Central Overland, California and Pikes Peak Express Company.
- Young boys were generally hired because of the company rule that no rider should weigh more than 125 pounds.
- “Bronco Charlie” Miller was said to be the youngest rider; he was 11 years old when he rode for the Pony Express.
- The owner of the company was very religious so he gave each rider a small Bible to carry with him at all times. Each rider also had to take an oath not to quarrel, drink, or swear.
- The riders rode through dangerous territory so the company provided them with a horn to blow to scare off robbers, but if that failed, they were given a carbine and two revolvers. The weaponry proved too heavy to carry so eventually the riders traveled with only a single revolver.
- Horses were changed every 9 to 15 miles. When the rider arrived, the stable knew to have a fresh horse ready to go.
- A rider was expected to dismount, transfer the mail pouch, re-mount and be on the road again within 2 minutes.
- The mail was carried using what was called a “mochila” (from the Spanish word for knapsack). It was a square of leather that worked like a slipcover over each rider’s saddle; it slipped over the saddle horn and the back of the saddle (the cantle). Attached to the broad leather skirt of the mochila were four cantinas, or boxes of hard leather. When the rider was in the saddle, his legs came between these boxes and the boxes ere firmly attached to the leather. The boxes were only opened when a new rider took over the route. Then the home station keeper would check the contents before assigning it to a new rider.
- The cost of mailing a letter started out at $5.00 per ½ ounce. Later the price was lowered to $1.00 per ½ ounce
- The route extended from St. Joseph Missouri to Sacramento.
- The company expected the route to be covered in fewer than ten days; the record was seven days and 17 hours.
Find out more here: http://www.historynet.com/pony-express
As a fun way to celebrate this historic landmark, write us a bit of weird wild west flash fiction (1550 words or less) about the pony express and email it to especbooks (at) aol (dot) com by April 30th, 2015. The winning story will be posted to the eSpec Books blog and the winner will get a DRM-Free copy of The Weird Wild West once the book is available.