Being from Saint Joseph, Missouri originally; I grew up hearing about the Pony Express often as it is one of the historical things that the city thinks is very important for the school kids to learn about. It kinda is important, it did change the way American receive mail across the country back in the mid 1800’s.
William H. Russell, Alexander Majors, and William B. Waddell were three businessmen with an idea that they could reduce shipping from Missouri to California down to 10 days. Until that point, it could take a month or more to get mail from Missouri to the West.
They was delivering arms to the military in the West and was hoping to also use the Pony Express to secure the mail contracts as well. The only problem with it is they never got the contract offered to them by the Postal service.
They hired hundreds of riders and send them out across the West with the mail, a handgun and a bible. They had to take an oath as follows:
“I, …, 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.”
What became of the Pony Express?
It runs its’ course. It was the most innovate things as far as mail service to that point. It did not last long but it was a real game changer. Young men ran for 10 miles to the next station and then the next horse would take off with the mail for next leg of the route. Really smart looking back at it.
Part of the reason that it died was the wages paid. They wanted the best riders so they paid up to $100 a month (just would be around $2,700 today). Just like in business today, paying too much in wages can kill a business quickly.
The other issue with finances was about the cost of sending packages. The rates started at $5 ($130 today) for half an ounce and worked its way down to $1 ($27) at the end of the Pony Express. as you would think, it is would not affordable for most people at the middle of the 1800’s.
The other issue was the looming Civil War in America. It was causing disruption across the country. Business in California was not excuses from it. It created an amount of fear in businessmen and that directly affecting the movement of mail to the West.
The last nail in the coffin was the introduction of the telegraph. It went online on October 24, 1861 and the Pony Express ceased business within 48 hours. There was competing with it by a bunch of horses and guys riding them.
All the access changed hands a few times but ultimately, after the Civil war, it was in the hands of Wells Fargo.
The main stable in St. Joseph is now the museum and it is open to the public on most weekdays. (including Sundays) It is located at 914 Penn Street just across from Patee Park. The good is everyone in St. Joseph has been to the museum at least once so they know exactly where it is. Just ask anyone above the age of 12 and they will give you directions.
It will take you about an hour to get through it and it will cost about $6 to see everything. I would suggest arriving at three in the afternoon at the latest. It is also worth noting that in the spring, it gets packed with school kids taking field trips to the museum.
As far as food goes, I would just suggest bringing some fried chicken or something and leave it in your car until after you are done. You can walk across the street to Patee Park and have a nice meal in the shelter.
Have you been to the Pony Express Museum?
If you have visited the museum there, what was your experience? Is there something that you enjoyed and would tell people to look for? If so, let us know in the comments.