In the mid-1800s, crossing North America could take up to three weeks. With no planes or even railroads reaching into the far West, mail and news had to be carried by horse back. The Pony Express tried to speed up the system by racing the 2000 miles from St. Joseph to Sacramento in only 10 days! Every 10 miles a station supplied a new horse for the rider to leap onto and continue. Riders were light young men--often teenagers, and to further lighten the load, the riders could only carry a pair of Colt revolvers for defense. The job required horse-riding skills, and a strong sense of courage and adventure--or insanity. Besides being expected to ride 75 miles on horseback a day, riders traveled dangerous route complete with wild animals and hostile Indians. If a rider became sick or hurt, another had to take a double turn. Buffalo Bill once road for 20 hours without stopping to cover 380 miles. Pony Bob broke his record, riding 380 continuous miles. Developed by William H. Russell, William B. Waddell, and Alexander Majors, the Pony Express was established on April 3, 1860 and run by the Central Overland California and Pikes Peak Express Company. It built up to over 100 stations, 80 riders, and around 500 horses. Only one mail delivery was ever lost. The Pony Express has been credited with keeping California in the Union by rapidly delivering the news of Lincolns 1860 election and the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861. Despite its successes, the Pony Express proved a financial failure, bankrupting its founders. In October 1861, it was discontinued when the Pacific Telegraph Company finished its San Francisco line.
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