Pony Express
Historic Resource Study
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Chapter Three:
ORGANIZATION AND OPERATION OF THE PONY EXPRESS, 1860-1861

INTRODUCTION

Following the exhilaration of the first ride of the Pony Express on April 3, 1860, came the reality of facing the task of running this complex operation. From supplying and maintaining the stations, to hiring and paying riders, stationkeepers, and others involved in the process, to addressing the myriad unpredictable problems brought on by weather, physical hardships, and breakdowns, the running of this elaborate and sophisticated operation presented an immense challenge.

Before the April 3, 1860 ride, where plans for the full operation materialized, one wonders how Russell, Majors, and Waddell envisioned the Pony Express, not in the abstract, but as a concrete day-to-day structured organization. Did their theoretical master plan of stations, horses, and employees transporting the mail across the Trans-Missouri West actually perform well in the practical world? Or did the firm have to react, incorporate, and adapt as they went along, doing whatever was necessary simply to keep the Pony Express running, and, above all, running on schedule? And finally, as hoped, as promised, did the Pony Express fulfill its intention—to provide speedy, dependable, regular overland mail service. In other words, how did the "ideal" operation of the Pony Express actually compare to reality?

To begin, let us first consider the elements of this vast operation. These elements include: the home and relay stations, horses, pony riders, stationkeepers, and the method of mail handling.


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Last Updated: 17-Jan-2008