The riders raced over the Sierra Nevada Mountains, through Placerville, California and on to Sacramento. Around midnight on April 14, 1860, the first mail pouch was delivered via the Pony Express to San Francisco.
The first Westbound Pony Express trip left St. Joseph on April 3, 1860 and arrived ten days later in San Francisco, California, on April 14. These letters were sent under cover from the East to St. Joseph, and never directly entered the U.S. mail system. To this day there is only a single letter known to exist from the inaugural westbound trip from St. Joseph, Missouri to San Francisco, California. The mailing depicted below is on a pre-stamped (embossed) envelope, first issued by the U.S. Post Office in 1855, used five years later here.
The messenger delivering the mochila from New York and Washington, DC, missed a connection in Detroit and arrived in Hannibal, Missouri, two hours late. The railroad cleared the track and dispatched a special locomotive called Missouri with a one-car train to make the 206-mile (332 km) trek across the state in a record 4 hours 51 minutes, an average of 40 miles per hour (64 km/h). It arrived at Olive and 8th Street, a few blocks from the company’s new headquarters in a hotel at Patee House at 12th Street and Pennsylvania and the company’s nearby stables on Pennsylvania. The first pouch contained 49 letters, five private telegrams, and some papers for San Francisco and intermediate points.
St. Joseph Mayor, M. Jeff Thompson, William H. Russell and Alexander Majors gave speeches before the mochila was handed off. The ride began at about 7:15 p.m. The St. Joseph Gazette was the only newspaper included in the bag.
The identity of the first rider has long been in dispute. The St. Joseph Weekly West (April 4, 1860) reported Johnson William Richardson was the first rider. Johnny Fry is credited in some sources as the rider. Nonetheless, the first westbound rider carried the pouch across the Missouri River ferry to Elwood, Kansas. The first horse-ridden leg of the Express was only about 1⁄2 mile (800 m) from the Express stables/railroad area to the Missouri River ferry at the foot of Jules Street. Reports indicated that horse and rider crossed the river. In later rides, the courier crossed the river without a horse and picked up his mount at a stable on the other side.
The first westbound mochila reached its destination, San Francisco, on April 14, at 1:00 a.m.
The first eastbound Pony Express trip left San Francisco, California, on April 3, 1860 and arrived at its destination some ten days later in St. Joseph, Missouri. From St. Joseph, letters were placed in the U.S. mails for delivery to eastern destinations. There are only two letters known to exist from the inaugural eastbound trip from San Francisco to St. Joseph.
Pony Express Route
The approximately 1,900-mile-long (3,100 km) route roughly followed the Oregon and California Trails to Fort Bridger in Wyoming, and then the Mormon Trail (known as the Hastings Cutoff) to Salt Lake City, Utah. From there it followed the Central Nevada Route to Carson City, Nevada before passing over the Sierra into Sacramento, California.
Illustrated Map of Pony Express Route in 1860
The route started at St. Joseph, Missouri on the Missouri River, it then followed what is modern-day U.S. Highway 36 (US 36 the Pony Express Highway) to Marysville, Kansas, where it turned northwest following Little Blue River to Fort Kearny in Nebraska. Through Nebraska it followed the Great Platte River Road, cutting through Gothenburg, Nebraska, clipping the edge of Colorado at Julesburg, Colorado, and passing Courthouse Rock, Chimney Rock, and Scotts Bluff, before arriving at Fort Laramie in Wyoming. From there it followed the Sweetwater River, passing Independence Rock, Devil’s Gate, and Split Rock, to Fort Caspar, through South Pass to Fort Bridger and then down to Salt Lake City. From Salt Lake City it generally followed the Central Nevada Route blazed by Captain James H. Simpson of the Corps of Topographical Engineers in 1859. This route roughly follows today’s US 50 across Nevada and Utah. It crossed the Great Basin, the Utah-Nevada Desert, and the Sierra Nevada near Lake Tahoe before arriving in Sacramento. Mail was then sent via steamer down the Sacramento River to San Francisco. On a few instances when the steamer was missed, riders took the mail via horseback to Oakland, California.
Behind the Pony Express Doodle
Country list of the Pony Express Doodle
Australia, Austria, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Iceland, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, New Zealand, Philippines, Slovakia, South Korea, Switzerland, Taiwan, Thailand and the United States