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Pony Express

            The Pony Express was a mail service for the Central Overland California and Pike's Peak Express Co. The mail was carried rapidly over land on horseback between St. Joseph, Missouri, and Sacramento, California, and by boat between Sacramento and San Francisco. On April 8, 1860, the first Pony Express rider headed east. The Pony Express was in operation from April 1860 to October 1861. During that time, about 200 riders carried that mail in a relay traveling 1,966 miles in ten days or less. Horses would be changed every ten to fifteen miles at swing stations. While at home stations, they change riders after about 75 miles. The riders averages 250 miles a day. During that time, the riders came upon Indians, desert heat, and blizzards. They traveled a total of 650,00 miles and carried 34,753 pieces of mail. Only one delivery was ever lost. To save weight, letters were written on tissue thin paper. Postage was $10 an ounce. This was later reduced to $2. Lincoln's inaugural address was carried from Missouri to California in seven days and seventeen hours, a record time. The Pony Express was organized by a stagecoach operator, William Hepburn Russell. He had been convinced by a group of important Californians that a mail route over land to their state was possible. Russell's business partners did not like this idea because it would not be protected by a U.S. mail contract. But he built the need stations and bought 500 "top-quality horses" anyway. In advertising for riders, he hinted at the hazardous nature of the job. The ad asked for, "small, daring young men, preferably orphans". The riders received room and board. Their earnings were $100 to &150 a month. Their average age was 19, but one rider, David Jay, was only 13. Another was William F. Cody, who became famous as "Buffalo Bill". In order to save more weight, riders would carry only a pistol and a knife. They were expected to out-run Indians not fight them.

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