atm-logoHow frequent was mail service in the Old West?

Stace Webb
Wenatchee, Washington

Mail service was infrequent and slow. From 1858 to 1861, the Butterfield Overland Mail transported the mail twice a week from St. Louis, Missouri, to San Francisco, California, in about 25 days. During its brief history, from April 1860 to October 1861, the Pony Express delivered a letter from St. Joseph, Missouri, to Sacramento, California, in about 10 days. Trans-Western mail service continued to operate with Wells Fargo, Ben Holladay and Overland Mail lines. The U.S. government canceled its last overland mail contract on May 10, 1869, the day the Transcontinental Railroad was completed from Omaha, Nebraska, to Sacramento, California, reducing the time in transit for mail to a week or less.


Marshall Trimble is Arizona’s official historian. His latest book is Wyatt Earp: Showdown at Tombstone.  If you have a question, write:

Ask the Marshall, P.O. Box 8008, Cave Creek, AZ 85327 or e-mail him at

Related Articles

  • stagecoach travel true west

    The California Gold Rush put westward expansion on steroids. Californians were demanding better mail service,…

  • true-west-best-of-the-west-2014

    Here are the winners of our "2014 Best of the West." Sit back and see…

  • /hearts-west

    Personal ads are not only a craze of modern dating. All throughout the 1800s, females…