"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." (The oath taken by Pony Express riders)
Although it was only in operation for about 18 months, the Pony Express remains the most famous and romanticized mailing system in American history. It still instantly brings to mind all of the old themes of the untamed frontier and the Wild West. Starting shortly before the Civil War erupted across the United States, the Pony Express connected the east and west by having riders deliver mail from St. Joseph, Missouri, to Sacramento, California - a route set up by previous explorations and a system of relay stations and waypoints. When working in perfect unison, the Pony Express dramatically cut down the time it took to travel to California, with the mail traveling nearly 1,900 miles to California just 10 days after the beginning of the journey in Missouri. Naturally, the Pony Express also ran from west to east as well.
Of course part of the allure of the Pony Express is in the way it challenged riders and horses, which ties it to Americans' fond visions of the frontier as an untamed landscape that only the most pioneering and rugged individuals could survive. At the same time, the Pony Express needed small riders to reduce the weight being carried by the horses.
©2012 Charles River Editors (P)2015 Charles River Editors