The Pony Express in Stamps
by Robyn Echols
As a retired rural letter carrier for the United States Postal Service, I feel a certain connection to the Pony Express riders of yester-yore. Although my “ride” was a right-hand drive surplus government jeep (later a RHD Subaru) instead of a horse, and my risk of being attacked came in the form of aggressive guard dogs instead of hostile Indians, I also rode many miles for long hours day after day to deliver the mail. I also developed a love for stamp artwork, although my personal collection is limited.
According to crazy and bizarre daily calendar posted by Brownielocks and the 3 Bears, August 31st is Pony Express Day. I have no understanding why that should be so since I was unable to verify it on any other online site. My research shows that the Pony Express began operations on April 3, 1860 and ended eighteen months later in October, 1861. But, in the spirit of things, I will share a few short facts about the Pony Express.
The Pony Express was organized by the owners of Russell, Majors & Waddell, the overland transportation and communications service started in 1854 to supply military posts. They knew the Pony Express would be of short duration due to the rapid expansion of railroad and telegraph services, but it turns out it ended when the parent company went bankrupt in 1862. In the meantime, California was a new state in the Union. It was separated by miles of sparsely-inhabited territories. The Civil War loomed on the horizon, many residents in both California and Oregon had come from the South and advocated for slavery, and the railroad lines only went as far west as the Mississippi River. The Union (with its military forts) needed a speedy means of communication to keep tabs on what was happening on the opposite side of the continent from Washington D.C.
The route started in St. Joseph, Missouri and roughly followed the California/Oregon trail traveled by the freighting operation until it arrived in Sacramento. From there, mail was sent by steamer to San Francisco. Each rider rode approximately 75 miles per day between 184 stations set up into five districts. They were able to travel this route in ten days.
Robyn Hobush Echols has been writing since she was in junior high school. By choice, she spent most of her evening hours in her “dungeon”, as her mother called her downstairs bedroom, writing stories, only joining her family in front of the television upstairs when her favorite programs were playing. She has spent hours learning and teaching family history topics, and focuses on history from a genealogist’s perspective of seeking out the details of everyday life in the past. Several of her family history articles have been published in genealogy magazines. She also draws on her education, including training in Environmental Hazardous Materials Technology and her professional background of being a state-level union steward for a postal union, a position which required investigative, research and technical writing skills. Now Robyn resides with her husband in California near the “Gateway to Yosemite” and has fun researching and writing the books that she hopes will interest and entertain her readers.
Books by Robyn include: