Yesterday I opened my web browser to find…PONIES! Always a good start to the day!


Yesterday marked the arrival date of the first letter sent by Pony Express in 1860, which took just 9 days and 23 hours to deliver from St. Joseph, Missouri to Sacramento, California. Google is commemorated the day with a fun game on their homepage.

But as with all things horsey, there’s more to the story than fun and games. We’ve got 15 facts about the Pony Express that you can use today to amaze and astound your friends and coworkers.

15. Apparently, horse business has always been more of a money spending operation than a money earning operation, because the Pony Express business only lasted for 18 months.

14. Riders traveled 75 to 250 miles each day, switching out tired horses for fresh ones every five to 15 miles at one of 157 “swing stations.”


Illustrated Map of Pony Express Route in 1860 by William Henry Jackson
Public Domain

13. Only one mail delivery was ever lost on the hazardous route.

12. There were an additional 27 “home stations” along the way where Pony Express riders could sleep.

11. Though the Pony Express was short-lived, whoever made their postmarks kept pretty busy, as there were several different designs.


Public Domain

10. Californians relied on Pony Express mail during the early days of the Civil War.

9. The Pony Express route roughly follows the modern-day Highway 36 in Missouri and  Route 50 across Nevada and Utah.

8. The cost to send a half-ounce letter was $5 in the early days of the Pony Express, which converts to about $147 in today’s CPI-adjusted dollars, but which still didn’t cover the cost to the freight-hauling firm of Russell, Majors & Waddell (originators of the Pony Express).

7. Only about 250 Pony Express letters exist today.

Mail intercepted by Native Americans

Mail intercepted by Native Americans

6. Pony Express riders earned $50-$100 a month (or about $1100-$2190 a month in today’s dollars) for their risky job.

5. Supposedly, the following ad ran in an 1860 California newspaper to attract riders (the exact source, however, is unknown): “Wanted: Young, skinny, wiry fellows not over eighteen. Must be expert riders, willing to risk death daily. Orphans preferred.

4. Breeds used for Pony Express horses included Morgans, Thoroughbreds, stock horses, the hardy “California horse” and Mustangs.


Frank E. Webner, Pony Express rider

3. Despite claims of their popular Wild West Show, Buffalo Bill Cody and Wild Bill Hickok may not have actually been Pony Express riders.

2. The first stop on the Pony Express is now a museum in St. Joseph, Missouri.

1. Pony Express riders were required to carry a Bible and sign the following oath:

“I, (name), 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.”