On April 3rd, 1860, the Pony Express opened for business delivering mail from St. Joseph, Missouri to Sacramento, California. William H. Russell, William Bradford Waddell and Alexander Majors added a governmental contract to their freight and Drayage business to deliver mail in 10 days or less, 1,800 miles in all. Their route would take them through Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, Wyoming, Colorado, Utah and Nevada ending up at California before starting the return trip.
The company started with 120 riders, 184 stations and 400 horses. Each rider would make a run of 75-100 miles, each horse 10 to 15 miles. Riders were paid $25.00 a week, the horses got all the food and water they could eat and drink. The biggest celebrity to work for the Pony Express was “Buffalo Bill” Cody.
The fastest trip on record was the deliver of President Lincoln’s inaugural address which made the trip in 8 days. $5.00 a half-ounce was charged for mail delivered. Each rider carried 20 pounds of mail, a water sack, a Bible, a horn to tell of the riders approach and a revolver.
Each rider was forced to sign an oath for their pay, $25.00 a week was pretty good pay back then considering the average pay was between 43 cents and $1.00 a day in 1860. Here is the oath, “I (name) do hereby swear, before the Great and Living God, that during my engagement, and while I am an employee of Russell, Majors and Waddell, I will, under no circumstances, use profane language, that I will drink no intoxicating liquors, that I will not quarrel or fight with any other employee of the firm, and that in every respect I will conduct myself honestly, be faithful to my duties, and so direct all my acts as to win the confidence of my employers, so help me God.”
We have to wonder how many of these rules were forgotten when a rider was on the plains, in the rain and being chased by Indians. They didn’t have long to deal with their oath though as the Pony Express went out of business in October of 1861 when the 1st transcontinental telegraph went into use.