Pony Express
Historic Resource Study
NPS Logo

Chapter Two:
THE GREAT RACE AGAINST TIME: BIRTH OF THE PONY EXPRESS

INTRODUCTION

Ironic it was that postmaster general Joseph Holt in early 1858 curtailed and scaled back the overland mail service to California and to the central region of the country just when there were new demands for the service in these areas. The gold rush to the Pike's Peak area in the summer of 1858 and a major silver deposit find in the Washoe hills of then Utah Territory (now Nevada) caused yet another rush. As soon as these spectacular discoveries became known, gold-silver seeking prospectors, speculators, and hopefuls rushed to these areas to make their fortunes. The first-comers, "finding themselves cut off from homefolks and friends, immediately demanded some means of communication." [1]

Indeed, communication links with these remote mining areas were clearly needed. The question was how would that service be provided and by whom. The answer came in early 1859, with the organization and start of the Leavenworth & Pike's Peak Express Company (L. & P.P. Express Co.) by the firm of Russell, Majors, and Waddell, which a year later became the Central Overland California & Pike's Peak Express Company otherwise known as the Pony Express. These private enterprises stepped in to fill the need where the government had reduced postal services for budgetary considerations.

Unique people and extraordinary circumstances generated the birth of the Pony Express. Three men formed this unique private enterprise: William H. Russell, Alexander Majors, and William B. Waddell. These men literally connected the crossroads of several dynamic western events with commercial opportunity in the express business. Each man possessed distinct qualities, temperaments, resources, and skills that contributed to the firm.


<<< Previous <<< Contents >>> Next >>>


https://www.nps.gov/poex/hrs/hrs2.htm
Last Updated: 17-Jan-2008