Pony Express Day celebrates those brave souls who made up the unique mail delivery system of the same name. Back in the days of the wild west, there was no Fed Ex, no Postal Service that ran that far west, no planes, and delivery by ship was likely to take months if it ever got there at all. Seeing this need for a specialized delivery service, Leavenworth and Pike’s Peak Express Company took an opportunity to expand into this void. From this important decision was born one of the most iconic pieces of American History, whose influence is felt in hundreds of Pony Express Day Festivals throughout the American Midwest.
The Pony Express existed for 18 months between the days of April 3, 1860 to October 1861. In these days there was no air mail, no great American Highway, all there was was hundreds of miles of wide open spaces with not much in between but animal filled wilderness and bandito filled hollows. During this time, if you wanted to send a letter or small package from anywhere East past the gateway of St. Joseph, Missouri, there was only one way to go. The Pony Express was a massive employer for it’s time, with up to 80 young riders employed at any given stage, with stringent requirements on their age, size, and weight.
The Pony Express preferred to employ the youngest riders they could, in part for their resilience, and in part for how light they were. The lighter a man was the longer the horse could run and the more cargo the rider could carry, and since the horses were put to go full tilt for 10 to 15 miles at a stretch before changing, this was of vital importance. The rider changed out every 75 to 100 miles, but the mail never so much as slowed even in the worst of weather. While the average trip from coast to coast (On Horseback!) took 10 days, when they delivered Lincoln’s Inaugural Address, the trip was made in a mere 7 days and 17 hours.
How to Celebrate
With Pony Express Day Festivals being a staple all throughout the United States, there are tons of opportunities to celebrate the bravery of these young mailmen. You can spend Postal Express Day dressed up as one of these adventurous young souls who served as the heart of America’s fast tracked postal line, while watching equestrian events commemorating the challenges they faced. Speaking of equestrian events, lets not forget the true heroes of this endeavor, the horses that carried men and post across the nation time and time again. These events often have a broad range of related events, including food related events. Chili was one of the staples of the old American West, and as you might imagine there was often a pot of this spicy staple bubbling to keep the riders fed as they came in and out with the packages.
If you find yourself without a local event, you can host one at your home. Make Chili and Cornbread, find logos and the like to print out online, and get the 1953 movie ‘Pony Express’ featuring Charleston Heston and Rhonda Fleming! This is a classic about this amazing American institution and the trials and efforts of the men and women who fought to make it a reality. So get together with your friends and family on Pony Express Day, and celebrate the Pioneer spirit of the Old West!