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Pony Express History and Facts For Kids


The Pony Express was America’s first mail service that crossed the Great Plains and the Rocky Mountains. It spanned from Missouri to California. The Express was in service for around one and a half years from 1860 until 1861. Unfortunately, even though the pony express was a successful way to deliver news across the country, the invention of the telegraph rendered the Express mail service less useful. It eventually became a thing of the past.

2. Who founded/started the Pony Express and why?

The Pony Express was founded by William Russell, William Waddell, and Alexander Majors. These men established the fundamentals and organization of the Express in the winter of 1860. By January of the following year, the Pony Express had organized its operations to include 120 riders, 184 stopping points/checkpoints, around 400 horses, and 400 men.

3. When did the Pony Express start service?

The first Pony Express service began on April 3, 1860.

4. When did the Pony Express end service?

The last Pony Express service ran sometime in late October of 1861.

5. In what state did the Pony Express begin?

The Pony Express began in St. Joseph, Missouri. Additional branches of the pony express split off the main route towards the end of the line. These branches included Columbus, Ohio, Omaha, Nebraska, Nebraska City, Nebraska, Kansas City, Missouri, Topeka, Kansas, and Atchison, Kansas.

6. In what state did the Pony Express end?

The Pony Express ended in Sacramento, California. Similar to the branches at the eastern end of the Pony Express, the western end of the route also included a couple of branches and shortcuts, one leading to Denver, Colorado. Other shortcuts included easier routes between two points if the rider did not need to visit any of the outposts between, for example, the Midway and Granger checkpoints.

7. What was the route of the Pony Express?

Through several checkpoints or outposts, the Pony Express traveled from St. Joseph, Missouri, to Sacramento, California. Each was spaced about 10 miles apart on the 1900 mile route. The riders would sometimes trade horses at each outpost to allow a horse to rest and refill their water and mail supplies. These outposts/checkpoints included St. Joseph (Missouri), Elwood, Troy, Kennekuk, Kickapoo, Granada, Log Chain, Seneca, Guittard’s from east to west Marysville, Hollenberg, Rock Creek, Big Sandy, Thompsons, Kiowa, Liberty Farm, 32m. Creek, Lone Trail, Summit, Hooks, Fort Kearny, Platte Station, Craigs, Plum Creek, Willow Spring, Midway, Gilman’s, Sam Mettache’s, Cottonwood, Cold Spring, Fremont Spring, O’Fallon’s, Alkali, Beauvais, Diamond Spring, South Platte, Julesburg, Lodge Role, 30 Mile Ridge, Midway, Mud Spring, Courthouse Rock, Junction, Chimney Rock, Ficklin’s, Scott’s Bluff, Spring Ranch, Bedeau’s, Fort Laramie, Horse Creek, Star Ranch, Cottonwood, Horseshow, La Bante, Box Elder, Deer Creek, Platte Bridge, Red Buttes, Willow Spring, Sweetwater, Devil’s Gate, Split Rock, Three Crossing, St. Mary’s, Rock Creek, South Passage, Pacific Spring, Dry Sandy, Big Sandy, Green River, Granger, Church Buttes, Millersville, Fort Bridger, Maddy, Quaking Asp, Bear River, Needle Rocks, Echo, Hanging Rock, Weber, Heneter, Dixie, Snyder’s Mountain Dell, Travelers Rest, Salt Lake City, Rockwell’s, Crittenden Pass, Faust’s, Point Lookout, Simpson’s Spring, River Bed, Dug Way, Black Rock, Fish Spring, Boyd’s, Willow Spring, Canyon, Deep Creek, 8 Mile, Prairie Gate, Antelope Spring, Spring Valley, Egan, Butte, Mountain Spring, Ruby Valley, Jacob’s Well, Diamond Spring, Sulphur Spring, Robert’s Creek, Camp Stan, Dry Creek, Cape Horn, Simpson Park, Reese River, Mt. Airy, Castle Rock, Edward’s Creek, Cold Spring, Middle Creek, Fair View, Mountain View, Stillwater, Old River, Busby’s, Nevada, Desert Wells, Dayton, Carson, Genoa, Friday’s, Yank’s, Strawberry, Webster’s, Moss, Sportsman’s Hall, Placerville, Folsom, Mills, Sacramento (California).

8. How long did the Pony Express service last?

The service ran from April of 1860 until October of 1861, just under 19 months.

9. Who chose the horses to serve on the Pony Express?

Alexander Major, one of the three founders of the Pony Express, was primarily responsible for selecting the first 400 horses to serve on the Pony Express. The horses averaged about 60 inches in height and weighed around 900 pounds each. They were smaller than large full-grown horses and thus were given the name ponies. However, not all the horses selected for the route were ponies, as many were smaller than average horses.

10. What was the motto of the Pony Express?

The unofficial motto of the Pony Express was “The mail must go through.”

11. How much did the Pony Express charge to carry a package?

When the Pony Express began, the prices were as follows:
For Letters weighing half-ounce or under – $5.00

According to an advertisement for the Pony Express that was published in 1861, the cost for the service was as follows (prices dropped as service became better and more frequently used):

For Letters weighing half-ounce or under – $1.00

For every additional half-ounce or fraction of an ounce – $1.00

In all cases to be enclosed in 10 cent Government Stamped Envelopes

All letters were required to be prepaid before sending.

12. How much did Pony Express riders get paid?

Pony Express riders were paid, on average, about $25 per week of work. The job was physically and mentally strenuous, and the riders were paid well. For comparison, the average weekly wage of unskilled workers around the same time (comparable to today’s minimum wage workers) was $1 per week.

13. Who was the youngest Pony Express rider?

Bronco Charlie was only 11 years old when he began working as a Pony Express rider. As riders needed to be small so the horses would not grow weary, thin, young men were the ideal pony riders. Bronco Charlie began as a rider in July or 1861 and rode with the Express until it ended operations later that year in late October. 70 years later, Bronco Charlie rode in a ceremonial procession from New York City to San Francisco to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Pony Express.

14. Who was the first eastbound rider?

The first eastbound rider left Sacramento for St. Joseph, Missouri, in April of 1860. His name was Billy Hamilton. The first eastbound trip took 11 days and 12 hours. Typically, pony riders traveled 250 miles every 24-hours.

15. Who was the first westbound rider?

The first westbound rider on the Pony Express left St. Joseph, Missouri, in April of 1860; His name was Johnny Fry. The first trip took a total of 9 days, 23 hours.