During the midst of the Civil War era, California was admitted to the Union, and yet this prosperous land in the west, was remote and distant from the East, Stage Coaches often taking as long as 20 days to venture the vast gap. Not to worry though, the Pony Express was founded with the intent of the fastest mail delivery between St. Joseph, Missouri, and Sacramento, California. Not to mention to draw public attention to the central route in hope of gaining the million dollar contract for the Central Overland California and Pikes Peak Express Company.
Now what is the Pony Express you ask? Simply a complex relay of mail by horses and riders, running in conjunction day, night, rain or shine, summer or winter. A total of 183 men are known to have ridden for the Pony Express during its operation of just over 18 months. Riders of this outfit were tough, an ad in a California newspaper read: "Wanted. Young, skinny, wiry fellows. Not over 18. Must be expert riders. Willing to risk death daily. Orphans preferred." Most riders were around 20, with the youngest being 11 and the oldest mid-40s. Not many were orphans. Most weighed around 120 pounds. Riders were compensated $100 on a monthly basis.
In order to cross the 2,000 mile stretch in as little as 7 days and 17 hours between telegraph lines, approximately 165 stations were set up along the frontier allowing riders to get a fresh horse every 10 to 15 miles, while riders would switch every 75 to 100 miles. This required a vast fleet of around 400 horses (including thorough breads, mustangs, pintos and morgans).
At a cost of $5.00 per 1/2 ounce, mail would be delivered once a week in both directions from April 3, 1860 (Johnny Fry was the first westbound rider from St. joseph, while Billy Hamiliton was the fi.
rst eastbound driver from Sacramento) to mid June 1860. By this time things were running more smoothly and the service charge dropped to 1$ per half ounce.