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 were 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.
Learn about Pony Express Day
The Pony Express was a mail service that delivered mail, newspapers, and messages via horse-mounted riders. This service operated between California and Missouri from the 3rd of April in 1860 until the 24th of October in the following year. This represented a monumental investment in the United States. The time for messages to travel between the Pacific and Atlantic coasts were reduced to roughly ten days while the Pony Express was in operation.
Not only did the Pony Express make a huge difference with regard to the speed at which messages could be delivered, but it also led to a number of knock-on effects. For example, the creation of catalogs came as a consequence of this, enabling people to purchase products and have them delivered by horse. This became the most direct means of communication at the time. It is imperative in terms of ensuring the new state of California was tied with the rest of the country.
You may be wondering why the Pony Express only lasted for a short period of time considering how revolutionary it was during this period. The truth is that it went bankrupt. The company was not able to be a monetary success, despite the fact that it was heavily subsidized. This coincides with a quicker telegraph service being developed at the time. However, the short-lived venture showed that a unified communications system could be created and operated all year long.
When the Pony Express was replaced with the telegraph, it sone became romanticized, becoming a part of the American West lore. The fact that it relied on fast horses and hardy, young riders was evidence of the Frontier times and the rugged American individualism that had become associated with them, and that is why it is only right that we pay honor to these people and animals with the Pony Express Day.
History of Pony Express Day
The Pony Express existed for 18 months between the days of April 3, 1860, to October 1861. In these days there was no airmail, no great American Highway, all there were 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 its 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 Pony Express Day
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!
You can also take this opportunity to learn more about the Pony Express and the incredible riders and horses that were responsible for keeping this in operation. Riding for the Pony Express was not easy. Riders had to be lightweight yet tough. In fact, it is alleged that a famous advertisement read the following:
Wanted: Young, skinny, wiry fellows not over eighteen. Must be expert riders, willing to risk death daily. Orphans preferred
A lot of young men applied for these jobs, and you can read about the different famous riders at the time. This includes Billy Tate. He was only 14-years-old when he started to ride the express trail. Tragically, he was killed when he came into contact with a band of Paiute Indians while on the route. His body was located riddled with arrows.
Another famous rider was Jack Keetley. In a letter, he wrote the following:
I made the longest ride without a stop, only to change horses. It was said to be 300 miles and was done a few minutes inside of twenty-four hours. I do not vouch for the distance being correct, as I only have it from the division superintendent, A.E. Lewis, who said that the distance given was taken by his English roadometer which was attached to the front wheel of his buggy which he used to travel over his division with, and which was from St. Joe to Fort Kearney.Jack Keetley