Young and daring horseback riders once carried U.S. mail between St. Joseph, Missouri, and Sacramento, California, from where it was then taken by steamer to San Francisco. The service began on April 3, 1860. Its promoters hoped to prove that the central route followed by the Pony Express was better than the longer southern route used by the stagecoaches of the Butterfield Overland Mail. Senator William M. Gwin of California was the chief promoter of the Pony Express, while the freight firm of William H. Russell, William B. Waddell, and Alexander Majors backed the project financially.
|Romantic view of Pony Express|
The Pony Express route followed the Oregon-California Trail, along the Platte River in Nebraska, through South Pass in Wyoming. At Fort Bridger, Wyoming, the riders left the trail, swung to the south of the Great Salt Lake, and then headed due west across the salt desert to the Sierra Nevada Mountains at Carson City, Nevada, and then across the Sierra Nevada into California and on to Sacramento. Relay stations stood 10 to 15 miles apart along the route.