Though it lasted only two romantic and dangerous years, the Pony Express lived up to its name. It was horse-borne mail delivery, operated by the Missouri freight company Russell, Majors and Waddell and founded in 1860.
It was the only viable alternative (unless a seaborne service taking six months is included) to the southern route into California, for the annual transportation of overland mail. It was in operation for two years from St. Joseph, Missouri to Sacramento, California. Riders and horses had to be very tough indeed, as the route through Cheyenne, Salt Lake City and Carson City was jammed with hostile natives, bandits, poisonous snakes (rattlers), rustlers, wide fast-running rivers, reivers and sheriffs who wanted to know where are you going buddy so goddam fast?
The Pony Express used a relay of fresh horses (and sometimes riders) and it took only two weeks to cover nearly two thousand miles. Many of the famous names of the Old West started their careers young as Express riders, such as Buffalo Bill Cody, Wild Bill Hickock and Bat Masterson. William Bonney applied for work with the PE but was refused, so he went away and became Billy the Kid instead.
However and notwithstanding, the costs were too high; many good horses were lost, and their riders with them; no-one would insure the Express because of the risks. Then the telegraph arrived and the dusty galloping riders were replaced by posts.
The Pony Express will always be remembered in America as one of the most adventurous and picturesque episodes in the history of that colourful country. Equivalents were founded at about the same time in Russia, India, Chinaand Afghanistan. They did not last long either.