How long did it take a letter to be delivered via Pony Express?

Stace Webb

Wenatchee, Washington

The Pony Express—which celebrates its 150th anniversary next year—was a big step forward in carrying the mail. In 10 days, riders could deliver a letter the 1,966 miles from the base in St. Joseph, Missouri, to the terminus in Sacramento, California. The record was seven days, 17 hours. Add another week or so for the mail to get from the East Coast to St. Joseph, and you’re looking at a total time of two to two-and-a-half weeks. At the time, transporting mail via steamship or stagecoach could take more than a month.

Unfortunately, the feds didn’t award the government mail contract to the Pony Express, and the venture went out of business in late 1861, a little more than a year and a half after its first ride.

Even so, people still celebrate the history of the Pony Express. The Pony Express Museum is a popular tourist stop in St. Joseph, and the operation’s route has been designated the Pony Express National Historic Trail by the National Park Service (NPS). Eventually, the NPS hopes that some 120 historic sites along the trail will be open to the public—including 50 existing Pony Express stations or station ruins.

Related Articles

  • ten-things

    You probably didn’t know.   • The idea behind a relay mail service didn’t originate…

  • Did Buffalo Bill Cody ever ride for the Pony Express?

      Glenn Miller North English, Iowa For help with this question, I contacted Lynn Houze,…

  • Charles Ray liked to hang out with bad guys.  Going by the name Pony Diehl…