In 1860, the first horseback rider of the transcontinental Pony Express carried a bundle of mail—including a letter from President James Buchanan to California Governor John Dewey congratulating him on the service’s inauguration—from St. Joseph, Missouri to Sacramento, California, in exactly 10 days.
A couple of weeks before the journey, arrangements were being made on either end to kickstart the express mail delivery service that would be faster than anything ever seen before. On March 19, an ad was placed in the Sacramento Union, calling for applicants to undertake the long and arduous journeys from West to East.
Signed by William W. Finney, a Pacific agent of the Pony Express’s parent company, the ad read, “Men Wanted! The undersigned wishes to hire ten or a dozen men, familiar with the management of horses, as hostlers or riders on the Overland Express Route via Salt Lake City. Wages, $50 per month and found. I may be found at the St. George Hotel during Sunday, Monday and Tuesday.”
On March 23, the Union reported that Finney had made all arrangements for his section of the journey, including hiring 21 men from the nearly 200 who showed up at the St. George Hotel to apply. A marker now stands at the site of the St. George, marking its role in the Pony Express’s history.
Later recruitment handbills were even more specific, inviting “expert riders, willing to risk death daily” to apply, adding that orphans were preferred. The salary advertised also showed a suitable increase to the then-princely sum of $25 a week. While the horse mail service lasted less than two years before being usurped by the widespread introduction of the telegraph, it was crucial in establishing communication between the East and the West Coasts just prior to the Civil War.
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