Pony Express
Historic Resource Study
NPS Logo



The historiography of the Pony Express can be broken down into the following two general categories: 1) primary resources (which include archival manuscript material, contemporary newspapers, traveler journals, diaries, autobiographies, and reminisces of people directly or indirectly associated with the Pony Express); 2) secondary historical resources (which include undocumented historical narratives, articles, and other research efforts, as well scholarly research). The following annotated bibliographical essay will guide the reader/researcher through the more significant resources that pertain to the history and understanding of the importance of the Pony Express. For additional resource materials see the full bibliography at the end of this manuscript.



Unfortunately, there is very little primary manuscript material readily available that is directly related to the origins, operation, and management of the Central Overland California & Pike's Peak Express Company otherwise known as the Pony Express. The records of the C.O.C. & P.P. Express Co. were not preserved by the firm, and only a few of them have survived the onslaught of time to be conserved in today's archives. The major collection concerning the C.O.C. & P.P. Express Co. are the private papers of William B. Waddell at the Huntington Library, San Marino, California. In 1946, the Huntington Library acquired the Waddell Collection from Mrs. William B. Waddell of Lexington, Missouri, the daughter-in-law of William Bradford Waddell. The Waddell Papers contain a total of 550 pieces of correspondence, financial statements, and contracts that provide detail regarding the business operations and legal affairs of the firm of Russell, Majors, and Waddell. The Waddell Papers cover the period 1839-1868, and they have been extensively researched by previous scholars.

Because the C.O.C. & P.P. Express Co. was a private enterprise not associated with the post office system of the federal government, there is no material in the National Archives, Washington, D.C., other than copies of the original postal contracts. However, smaller collections of primary material associated with the C.O.C. & P.P. Express Co. can be located and secured at various archival repositories and libraries along the trail in the states of Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, Nevada, and California.

In Missouri, the researcher should start at the St. Joseph Museum in St. Joseph. The museum's library has a good collection of secondary historical resources pertaining to the Pony Express, including photographs, maps, and slides. The St. Joseph Museum also operates the Pony Express Museum (renovated former stables of the Pony Express), which exhibits and displays material that illustrates the creation, operation, management, and termination of the enterprise. In addition to visiting the St. Joseph and Pony Express Museum, the researcher should turn to the holdings of the Western Historical Manuscript Collection of the University of Missouri at Columbus for a few primary resources. The University of Missouri possesses an original copy of the "Pony Express Edition" of the St. Joseph Daily Gazette dated April 3, 1860. Of further interest is the original contract between the C.O.C. & P.P. Express Co. and the citizens of St. Joseph giving land in St. Joseph to the company in exchange for locating offices and mail services in the town. Beyond these items, there are a few individual items related to the Pony Express in other collections, such as bills of lading, and so forth, as well as some manuscript items corresponding to the 1960 centennial celebration ride sponsored in part by the National Pony Express Centennial Association.

In Kansas, there is little primary resource material associated with the Pony Express. Though the Spencer Library Kansas Collection located at the University of Kansas has research material related to Kansas Pony Express stations, and some rider reenactment material for the 1923 celebration, little of it was of much use for this particular manuscript. For information on individual station sites in Kansas, the Kansas State Historical Society (KSHS) can provide National Register of Historic Places documentation on the eligibility of sites.

In contrast to KSHS, the Nebraska State Historical Society (NSHS) has a few important collections bearing upon the Pony Express besides National Register of Historic Places nomination forms for sites within the state. At NSHS, the researcher should look at the Leonard Whiting Gilchrist Papers, which contain his California journals. Gilchrist's journals make numerous references to the arrival of the Pony Express and the role it played in bringing the news from the East. In addition to the Gilchrist Papers, the researcher should consult the record collections pertaining to the National Park Service, Scott's Bluff National Monument, which has material related to the Pony Express Centennial, 1958-1963, and NSHS' Pony Express vertical files of newspaper clippings and correspondence pertaining to the 1960 centennial re-ride of the Pony Express, including congressional legislation sponsoring it. A good collection of photographs related to Pony Express stations in Nebraska can also be found at the historical society.

In Colorado, there are two main sources for primary and secondary information on the Pony Express. The first source is the Colorado State Historical Society in Denver, which holds a few published and unpublished articles on the Pony Express, as well as the Clarence Dawson Newspaper Scrapbooks, a collection of articles from various newspapers pertaining to sundry Colorado and western history topics including the Pony Express. The other source to consider is the Western History Department of the Denver Public Library. Besides having an excellent collection of secondary works on the Pony Express and the American West in general, the Denver Public Library is a good resource for contemporary newspaper accounts for the period 1860-1861 and later references to the Pony Express. Beyond these considerations, the Denver Public Library also possesses several very useful photographic files on Pony Express stations, equipment, riders, and monuments and markers along the trail.

In neighboring Wyoming, the researcher should turn to both the Wyoming State Historical Society in Cheyenne, and the American Heritage Center at the University of Wyoming in Laramie. The vertical files of the Wyoming State Historical Society contain secondary material regarding Wyoming Pony Express stations, various re-rides and celebrations of the Pony Express, as well as a file of photographs and maps of the Pony Express trail. Additionally, there is manuscript material on trail maps of the Pony Express produced by W.R. Honnell and by L.C. Bishop and Paul Henderson. At the University of Wyoming in Laramie, the critical archive collection is the Paul and Helen Henderson Trail Collection. This collection retains a wealth of important Pony Express material, including correspondence files between Paul and Helen Henderson and other historians (Merrill Mattes, Gregory Franzwa, etc.) regarding the trail and station sites in Nebraska and Wyoming, several published and unpublished typescript articles and pamphlets on various stations (e.g., Cottonwood Station, Mud Springs, Willow Springs, etc.), field notes and maps associated with sites and monuments relevant to the Pony Express trail, and also photographic files on multifarious stations. Included in the Henderson Collection is a subject file section on various Pony Express stations, as well as maps, such as the original Pony Express map researched and drawn by Paul Henderson and L.C. Bishop for the centennial celebration. At the American Heritage Center, other manuscript collections that the researcher should consider are the Joseph G. Masters, W.W. Morrison, L. Clark Bishop, Waddell F. Smith, Robert W. Howard, and the Merrill Mattes materials.

Unlike Wyoming, in Utah there is a paucity of material directly related to the role of the Pony Express in that state. The Utah State Historical Society (USHS) in Salt Lake City does have a few collections relevant to the Pony Express. Besides the USHS' vertical and photographic files, and a few unpublished typescripts on the Pony Express and Utah and the marking of station sites, the researcher at USHS should consult the H.A. Sorenson Collection for material on the National Pony Express Centennial Association and the role it played in the 1960 centennial re run.

For primary materials related to the Pony Express in Nevada, the historian should conduct research in three locations: the Nevada State Museum, Carson City, the Nevada Historical Society, Reno, and the Special Collections Department of the University of Nevada, also in Reno. A number of unpublished cultural resource reports of surveys and historical archaeological site surveys of various Nevada station sites can be found at the Nevada State Museum. The Nevada Historical Society's holdings include vertical files on the Pony Express stations in Nevada and a selection of photographs pertaining to Pony Express stations. In addition to these items, the researcher will find a few other items of interest in the Robert A. Allen Papers (Allen was a state highway engineer and amateur historian, who in the the 1930s retraced the Pony Express trail across Nevada). The Special Collections Department of the University of Nevada possesses limited material in the form of secondary works, historic maps, and a few photographs of Nevada station sites.

In California, the researcher should start at either the Huntington Library, San Marino, California, or the Bancroft Library, San Francisco, for background material on the stations in California. Beyond these repositories, the Historic Preservation Division of the State of California has designated all the site locations within the state as registered historical landmarks and their files contain survey forms and some supportive documentation for each site. One should also turn to the California State Historical Society for contemporary newspaper material on the Pony Express, and the Sacramento Archives and Museum Collection Center for a few photographs on the Pony Express.


Newspapers are the critical resource for specific information regarding the arrival and departure of the Pony Express along various points of the trail, incoming and outgoing news, as well as troubles along the route. Microfilm copies of various newspapers can usually be found at universities along the Pony Express National Historic Trail. Naturally, the newspapers at either terminal point of the Pony Express made considerable references to the C.O.C. & P.P. Express Co. Sources for the eastern terminus include: St. Joseph Free Democrat, Missouri Republican, Weekly West; papers from the Midwest, such as the Chicago Tribune, St. Louis Missouri Democrat, and Western Journal of Commerce (Kansas City) also provide additional material; and east coast papers such as the New York Tribune, and the New York Herald should also be consulted. Newspaper sources for the western terminus include: San Francisco Evening Bulletin; San Francisco Alta Californian; Sacramento Union; and the Nevada Territorial Enterprise. The Deseret News from Salt Lake City and the Rocky Mountain News from Denver provide additional information on arrival and departure dates, as well as news about incidents and delays along the trail.

It should be pointed out that the Pony Express had a significant impact on local, regional, and national newspapers as they adjusted to supplying news to their readers via "pony" extra issues or special columns in their newspapers. For the impact of the Pony Express on one paper (Deseret News) see Wendell J. Ashton, Voice in the West: Biography of a Pioneer Newspaper (1950).


Two of the earliest impressions of the Pony Express come to us from first-hand accounts of travelers along the Pony Express route by stage, such as Englishman and adventurer Richard F. Burton, and novelist and short-story writer Mark Twain. In 1860, Burton came to the United States as a student of religion to study the Mormon Church. In his classic travelogue City of the Saints and Across the Rocky Mountains to California (1862), Burton witnessed the arrivals and departures of Pony Express riders, providing us with realistic, unromantic descriptions of stations along the route. On the other hand, in his artful account of the Far West entitled Roughing It (1872), Mark Twain became one of the first writers to view the Pony Express as a romantic adventure. He penned them as the "riders of the purple sage," but provided little detail about the actual operations of the Pony Express itself. There are other primary narratives that should be considered by the scholar, such as former New York Tribune reporter Albert Richardson's Beyond the Mississippi: Life and Adventure on the Prairies, Mountains, and Pacific Coast (1867), which promoted the Pony Express as the forerunner of the transcontinental railroad, and commended its contribution to transcontinental communication of events, such as the news of Lincoln's election.

Reliable diaries and autobiographies directly related to the Pony Express are few and far between. Published accounts include Howard R. Egan's diary Pioneering the West, 1846-1878: Major Howard Egan's Diary (1917), which provides material on Egan's role in laying out the overland trail across Utah and Nevada for W.G. Chorpenning, and Egan's experience riding for the Pony Express during the Indian troubles along the Nevada and Utah portions of the trail. Autobiographies under consideration by the researcher should include William F. Cody's An Autobiography of Buffalo Bill and Wild Bill Hickok (1920), although Cody's account is somewhat suspect and is contradicted in Herbert Cody Blake's Blake's Western Stories: The Truth About Buffalo Bill and Wild Bill Hickok (1929). By far the most often quoted autobiographical material is Alexander Majors' Seventy Years on the Frontier: Alexander Majors' Memoirs of a Lifetime on the Border (1893). Majors' Seventy Years on the Frontier is a good starting point for anyone that is interested in obtaining a succinct description of the origins and mission of Pony Express, the day-to-day operations of the enterprise, and the feats of various riders as seen through the eyes of one of its founders.

Reminiscences from people associated with the Pony Express began as early as 1889, when John W. Clampitt gathered stories he heard of the "world renown Pony Express from riders, such as J.S. Robinson of San Francisco. Clampitt published them in his Echoes from the Rocky Mountains: Reminiscences and Thrilling Incidents of the Romantic and Golden Age of the Great West (1889). From Clampitt's account comes material regarding the contracting firm of Russell, Majors, and Waddell, material regarding the operation of the Pony Express, and romantic stories about the personal exploits and feats of certain riders. One of the last reminiscent accounts came from Broncho Charlie Miller, the so-called "last" of the Pony Express riders. Miller detailed his brief career as a rider along the Sacramento to Placerville segment of the trail in Erskine, in Gladys Shaw's Broncho Charlie: A Saga of the Saddle (1934).


Secondary historical resources on the Pony Express cover a wide spectrum of works of varying quality and reliability. They include undocumented historical narratives, articles, and other research efforts that were based on limited factual material and scholarly discipline. These accounts began in the late 1880s and tended to popularize and romanticize the Pony Express. They continue to be produced even today. Paralleling these undocumented works was a series of scholarly monographs and journal articles that uncovered documentation on the Pony Express, and provided insight and synthesis to the history and role of the Pony Express in American transcontinental communication history. Since the beginning of the twentieth century, these historical works have slowly revealed the significance and history of the Pony Express.


Undocumented historical accounts can be defined as material that tells the "story" of the Pony Express without reference to sources by acceptable historical professional standards. These accounts usually personify and dramatize the tale in a narrative style, placing emphasis on the heroism of the riders, and even sometimes supplying character dialogues for people associated with the Pony Express, such as Russell, Majors, and Waddell, or for "famous" riders, such as Bob Haslam ("Pony Bob"). While many of these accounts have the general history of the Pony Express correct and are well-illustrated, material in them cannot be totally relied upon because they lack primary or secondary documentation to support their statements. Many of these accounts have also freely incorporated previously written material into their narrative without giving due credit to the authors.

There are numerous examples of undocumented accounts. One of the earliest is John W. Clampitt's Echoes from the Rocky Mountains (1889), which was mentioned earlier. Other early narratives of this nature are John M. Burke's, "Buffalo Bill" From Prairie to Palace: An Authentic History of the Wild West (1893), and Colonel Henry Inman's and Colonel William F. Cody's The Great Salt Lake Trail (1898). This latter work egregiously borrowed material from Alexander Majors' Seventy Years on the Frontier, and added additional stories about the feats of riders such as J.G. Kelley, Robert Haslam, Charles Cliff, James Moore, and of course, William F. Cody.

By the turn of the century, the broad story of the Pony Express was outlined in these undocumented works. The first strong synopsis of the outlines of the Pony Express was presented by W.F. Bailey in "The Pony Express," Century Magazine (1898). It was followed by Frank A. Root and William Elsey Connelley's The Overland Stage to California: Personal Reminiscences and Authentic History of the Great Overland Stage Line and Pony Express (1901). A decade later, the first full-length history on the Pony Express was written by Glenn D. Bradley. In his Story of the Pony Express (1913) Bradley used some primary material (contemporary newspapers and congressional documents), but his monograph largely covered material developed by earlier sources, such as Bancroft, Bailey, Root and Connelley, Inman, and of course Alexander Majors. Nevertheless, Bradley's work became a "classic" on the Pony Express, and in 1976, it was reprinted by Waddell F. Smith as the "official" centennial history of the Pony Express.

Following Bradley, came a series of popular histories on the Pony Express, one being produced approximately every decade. They include William and George Hug Banning's Six Horses (1928); The Pony Express Goes Through: An American Saga Told by Its Heros (1935) written by English-Education professor, Howard R. Driggs (illustrated with William H. Jackson prints of scenes related to the Pony Express); Gene Morgan's, Westward the Course of Empire: The Story of the Pony Express, Forerunner of the Burlington Zephyrs (1945); and E.A. Brininstool's, Fighting Indian Warriors: True Tales of the Wild Frontiers (1953).

In addition to the above literature, research including monographs, articles, and stories has been conducted by many to celebrate anniversary trail reenactments. The first celebration of the Pony Express through an reenactment came in 1923 and is described in Louise Platt Hauck, "The Pony Express Celebration" Missouri Historical Review (July 1923). Retracing the Pony Express segment by segment began largely after the 1935 Diamond Jubilee Anniversary commemoration was organized by the Oregon Trail Memorial Association. Following the 1935 celebration, a monthly speciality paper devoted to the Pony Express and other western topics entitled the Pony Express Courier (later The Pony Express) began. This monthly ran sporadically until 1971.

Indoor research in documents was supplemented by field investigations that tried to retrace the Pony Express and other historic trails nationwide and bring them to life again. One early published resource of this nature is Irene D. Paden's The Wake of the Prairie Schooner (1943).

With the approach of Pony Express centennial anniversary in 1960, a number of histories were written to celebrate its past. For instance, see Lee Jensen's, The Pony Express: Illustrated with a Unique Collection of Historical Pictures (1955); William Harris Floyd's, Phantom Riders of the Pony Express (1958); Robert West Howard's, Hoofbeats of Destiny (1960); James Pierson, The Pony Express Trail, 1860-1861 (1960); Nolie Mumey's, Hoofs to Wings: The Pony Express (1960); Roy E. Coy, "St. Joseph Celebrates Hundredth Anniversary of Pony Express," Museum Graphic (1960); and Mabel Loving's, The Pony Express Rides On!: A History of the Central Overland Pony Express 1860-1861 Between Saint Joseph, Missouri and Sacramento and San Francisco, California. (1961).

Thereafter popular works on the Pony Express continued to appear approximately every five years. For instance, see Fred Reinfeld's, Pony Express (1965); Heroes on Horseback: The Story of the Pony Express (1969) by Tom West; and the Time-Life Books series The Old West: The Expressmen (1974), text by David Niven.

In addition to the above describe monographs, from the turn of the century onward, numerous undocumented articles appeared in magazines about the Pony Express. The first magazine article appearing in a national periodical to be written about the Pony Express was W.F. Bailey's "Pony Express," which appeared in Century Magazine in 1898. Since that time numerous articles have appeared in many national magazines like Union Pacific Magazine, Reader's Digest, Literature Digest, Sunset, and popular western magazines such as True West. For examples of this literature, see Ray H. Fisher, "The Pony Express," Improvement Era (February 1949); and Bartlett Boder, "The Pony Express, "Museum Graphic (Spring 1950). After 1960, general articles appear in such diverse magazines as the American Legion Magazine; American Bar Association Journal; and National Geographic, such as David Nevin and Rowe Findley's, "The Pony Express" (July 1980). For more recent articles, whose titles belie their substance, see: Carolyn Z. Roth, "On the Trail of the Pony Express," American West (August 1988); and Jaqueline Lewin, "Czechoslovakian Pony Express Riders Visit the St. Joseph & Pony Express Museum," The Happenings: St. Joseph Museum (1990).

Various celebrations and reruns of the Pony Express, including a reenactment for the 1976 Bicentennial, eventually led to desire to preserve the Pony Express Trail in some way. With the passage of the National Trails System Act in 1968, the National Park Service commissioned a number of feasibility studies regarding the preservation of trails nationwide, including the Pony Express. For the Pony Express study, see National Park Service, Eligibility / Feasibility Study and Environmental Assessment for the California and Pony Express Trails (1986).


In comparison to the undocumented popular works on the Pony Express, scholarly research is less prolific. Probably the first scholarly look of the Pony Express was Arthur Chapman's The Pony Express: The Record of a Romantic Adventure in Business (1932). Based on primary and previously written secondary material, Chapman's book offers background material on the mail and steam routes prior to the Pony Express. The book also provides chapters on the operation of the enterprise, on various riders, including "interviews" with some of them, and on the demise of the Pony Express. For many years, Chapman's book was accepted as the "authoritative account" on the Pony Express. Nonetheless, Chapman's book is largely uncritical and has been outdated by new, more "scholarly" material. It should only be used as a starting point for the reader interested in the Pony Express.

New material on the C.O.C. & P.P. Express Co. came in the late 1940s, when Raymond W. and Mary Lund Settle gained access to the William B. Waddell Papers located at the Huntington Library. In conjunction with national archival and local research, the Settles wrote the first of several books on the firm of Russell, Majors, and Waddell, entitled Empire on Wheels (1949). With personal family interest to motivate them, (Raymond Settle's grandfather was a bullwhacker for Alexander Majors), the Settle's book provided detail on the personalities of each man, information on Russell, Majors, and Waddell's various business enterprises, including the C.O.C. & P.P. Express Co. Empire on Wheels put the firm of Russell, Majors, and Waddell and the Pony Express in context with national developments in transportation as well.

Six years later, the Settles followed up Empire on Wheels with Saddles and Spurs: The Pony Express Saga (1955), which concentrated solely on the history of the Pony Express. Based on research collected for their previous volume, as well as additional research, this well-illustrated, reliable volume: 1) detailed the personalities of Russell, Majors, and Waddell, 2) gave excellent background information to the Pony Express' organization and daily operation, 3) provided a roster of riders and station histories, and 4) discussed the financial difficulties and troubles of the business. Saddles and Spurs ended with a look at the ultimate defeat and demise of the Pony Express. Though Saddles and Spurs should perhaps be considered the "authoritative" work on the Pony Express, the volume has drawbacks. First, like authors before them, the Settles at times appear to be uncritically romantic—even regarding the Pony Express' failure. Second, though the Settles include an extensive bibliography in Saddles and Spurs, the monograph is not footnoted, a serious flaw to what should be considered a "standard work" on the Pony Express.

Saddles and Spurs was not Raymond W. and Mary Lund Settle's last work. Raymond W. Settle wrote "The Pony Express, Heroic Effort—Tragic End," Utah Historical Quarterly (April 1959), and in 1970, they added to their research on the Pony Express and the firm of Russell, Majors, and Waddell with yet a new monograph. They published War Drums and Wagon Wheels: The Story of Russell, Majors, and Waddell (1970). This last volume by the Settles broke new ground on the contracting problems of the firm of Russell, Majors, and Waddell. War Drums and Wagon Wheels also provided insight into the bond scandal associated with the financing and bankruptcy of the Pony Express, an event that eventually brought the firm into national disgrace.

In the 1950s and 1960s, a few general histories of the Pony Express followed Saddles and Spurs. They mimicked previous works such as those by Glenn D. Bradley and Arthur Chapman, but they added little new material or insights on the subject. The most notable of them is Roy S. Bloss, Pony Express—The Great Gamble (1959). However, one short history of the evolution of the C.O.C. & P.P. Express Co. from the Pike's Peak Express Company and the Hockaday Line that should not be passed by is George A. Root and Russell K. Hickman's, "The Pike's Peak Express Companies" Parts I-IV in Kansas Historical Quarterly (1944-1946).

Beyond general histories of the Pony Express, scholars have broadly viewed the Pony Express in conjunction with transportation history and other express companies. One early study of this nature and by far the best scholarly history of the postal service from the Mississippi to the Pacific Coast, and the role the Pony Express played in transcontinental transportation of the mail, is Le Roy R. Hafen's The Overland Mail, 1849-1869: Promoter of Settlement, Precursor of Railroads (1926). However, Hafen's well-documented analysis of the subject perceives the Pony Express as the "demonstrator" of the central route for the railroads, a point in dispute with this author's opinion. On the subject, Alvin F. Harlow's Old Waybills: The Romance of the Express Companies (1934) should not be overlooked as well. Works on the overland stage companies that mention the role of the Pony Express include J.V. Frederick's standard work on the Central Overland Stage Route entitled Ben Holladay, The Stagecoach King: A Chapter in the Development of the Transcontinental Transportation (1940); Oscar Osburn Winther, Via Western Express and Stagecoach (1945); Waddell F. Smith's Stage Lines and Express Companies in California (1965); and Ralph Moody, Stagecoach West (1967).

One major controversy regarding the Pony Express is the role that the Wells Fargo Company played in the operation and control of the Pony Express in its last year. For material on this controversy, see Waddell F. Smith, Pony Express Versus Wells Fargo Express: Or Hoof Prints That Can Not Be Eroded By Time (1966); W. Turrentine Jackson, "A New Look at Wells Fargo, Stagecoaches, and the Pony Express," California Historical Society Quarterly (December 1966); Noel M. Loomis, Wells Fargo (1968); and W. Turrentine Jackson, "Wells Fargo's Pony Expresses," Journal of the West (July 1972).

Less controversial is the philatelic history of the Pony Express, which is of interest to many readers and historians alike. For those interested in express charges, postal rates, and envelope markings of the Pony Express, see Julius Loeb, "The Pony Express," The American Philatelist (November 1930); and M.C. Nathan and W.S. Boggs, The Pony Express: Collectors Club Handbook No. 15 (1962).

For the reader interested in a particular station's history, there are only a few specific articles available. It is an area that seriously needs further research by historians, preservationists, and historical archaeologists. Material pertaining to stations and sites related to the Pony Express largely began appearing in the 1950s, as researchers began to take interest in the centennial celebration of the Pony Express. One of the first articles to appear on the subject was Floyd C. Shoemaker's "The Pony Express—Commemoration, Stables and Museum," Missouri Historical Review (July 1950). Shoemaker's article covered the restoration of the Old Patee House and Pony Express Stables in St. Joseph, Missouri. Also see Rich Nolf and Jaqueline Lewin's, "The Pony Express Museum," The Happenings: St. Joseph Museum (March-April 1989); and Mike Fisher's, "Archaeological Investigations at the Pony Express Museum," The Happenings: St. Joseph Museum (1990).

Short individual station histories have been written by local trail historians, but the quality of this work has not been tested rigorously. For examples of these types of works see: O.W. Hinrichs "Diamond Springs Pony Express Station," The Goldenrod (1932), Paul Henderson, "The Story of Mud Springs," Nebraska History (June 1951); Alice Baltzelle Addenbrooke, The Enchanted Fortress (Fort Churchill) (1968); and Jackie Lewin, "Log Chain Pony Express Station Owners Recognized," The Happenings: St. Joseph Museum (1990). To date, the best research on station histories have been done by historical archaeologists working on cultural resource management (CRM) studies for federal government agencies. Examples of past and recent "grey" literature in public history are too numerous to list here or even in the final bibliography for this study. See for instance, Donald L. Hardesty's, The Archaeology of Cold Springs Station, Bureau of Land Management (1977), or Report of Historical, Architectural, Archaeological Aspects of Mountain Dell Station, Utah, by Allen D. Roberts, Maxine Hanks, and John Senulis written under contract for Sacramento District Corps of Engineers (1989).

For individual lists of stations see Kate B. Carter's Riders of the Pony Express 1947) (reprinted in 1960 as Utah and the Pony Express); Raymond W. and Mary Lund Settle's, Saddles and Spurs: The Pony Express Saga (1955); Lee Jensen's, The Pony Express: Illustrated with a Unique Collection of Historical Pictures (1955); Roy S. Bloss, Pony Express—The Great Gamble (1959); Mabel Loving's, The Pony Express Rides On! (1961); and Merrill Mattes and Paul Henderson's, The Pony Express Across Nebraska From St. Joseph to Fort Laramie (1989).

For historical sources looking at the trail in its entirety directly or indirectly as a subject see: James Pierson, The Pony Express Trail, 1860-1861 (1960); Roy E. Coy, "The Pony Express," Museum Graphic (Spring 1960), Merrill J. Mattes, The Great Platte River Road: The Covered Wagon Mainline Via Fort Kearney to Fort Laramie (1969); and also Gregory M. Franzwa, Maps of the Oregon Trail (1990).

Many general histories of the development of the American West devote some space and energy to including the Pony Express in sections related to transportation history. These summaries are usually written without criticism and based upon early knowledge about the Pony Express. For a sampling of early works, see Randall Parrish's The Great Plains: The Romance of Western American Exploration, Warfare and Settlement, 1527-1870 (1907); Frederick Logan Paxson, The Last American Frontier (1911) and History of the American Frontier, 1763-1893 (1924); Katherine Coman's Economic Beginnings of the Far West (1912); Dorothy Gardiner's, West of the River (1941); Everett Dick's Vanguards of the Frontier (1941), an early scholarly summary of the Pony Express that romanticizes the "swift couriers of the plains;" and Jay Monaghan's, The Overland Trail (1947).

The role the Pony Express played in the history of particular states is covered either in individual state histories or historical writings that discuss individual stations within their borders. These accounts are of differing scholarly value, but those that appear in state historical journals can be generally relied upon.

For source material specific to Kansas, Nebraska, and Colorado stations see "The Pony Express Rides Again," Kansas Historical Quarterly (Winter 1959); Merrill Mattes and Paul Henderson, "The Pony Express Across Nebraska From St. ">Joseph to Fort Laramie," Nebraska History (June 1960), later updated and reprinted as Merrill Mattes and Paul Henderson, The Pony Express: Across Nebraska From St. Joseph to Fort Laramie (1989); and Jacqueline Lewin, "The Pony Express Trail in Kansas," The Happenings: St. Joseph Museum (1991).

Unfortunately, though a number of general histories identify Pony Express stations in Wyoming, no one source covers station locations and their specific histories in Wyoming. For general information on these stations, see research conducted by trail historians Gregory Franzwa, Paul Henderson, Merrill Mattes, and Raymond and Mary Lund Settle.

For Utah see Hubert Howe Bancroft's History of Utah, 1540-1886 (1889), which gives background on the Utah War; Kate B. Carter's Riders of the Pony Express (1947) (reprinted in 1960 as Utah and the Pony Express); Terral F. King, "The Pony Express Rides Again," Our Public Lands (Fall 1965); and Richard E. Fike and John W. Headley, The Pony Express Stations of Utah in Historical Perspective (1979)—the most reliable source on Utah Pony Express stations.

The stations within the borders of Nevada have been thoroughly researched in many regards. See Thompson and West, History of Nevada: With Illustrations and Biographical Sketches of the Prominent Men and Pioneers (1881), which gives a brief background on the development of mail and stage routes across Nevada. Later state histories that should be considered are: Hubert Howe Bancroft's History of Nevada, Colorado, and Wyoming, 1540-1888 (1890); Effie Mona Mack, Nevada: A History of the State from the Earliest Times Through the Civil War (1936); Nevada State Historical Society, Nevada: A Guide to the Silver State (1940); and Dale L. Morgan's, The Humboldt: Highroad of the West (1943). For a synopsis of Richard F. Burton's contemporary account of his journey across Nevada, see "Pony Express Issue," Nevada Historical Society Quarterly (April June 1960).

Sources that specifically cover Nevada Pony Express stations are: Edward B. Scott, The Saga of Lake Tahoe: A Complete Documentation of Lake Tahoe's Development Over the Last One Hundred Years Volume 1 (1957) Volume II (1973); Nevada Bureau of Land Management, The Pony Express in Nevada (1976) written for the 1976 Bicentennial; Donald L. Hardesty's, The Pony Express in Central Nevada: Archaeological and Documentary Perspectives (1979); U.S. Department of the Interior, The Pony Express in Nevada (1981); and finally John M. Townley's, The Pony Express Guidebook: Across Nevada with the Pony Express and Overland Stage Line (1986). For an early CRM study of the Nevada Pony Express stations, consult Bureau of Land Management, Nevada Pony Express Route: Historic Digest and Interim Recreation Management Plan (May, 1975), unpublished.

For the role of the Pony Express in California's history see Hubert Howe Bancroft's History of California, 1860-1890 (1890), George Wharton James Heroes of California: The Story of the Founders of the Golden State (1910); and Robert Glass Cleland, A History of California: The American Period (1922). For California stations see Ralph Herbert Cross, The Early Inns of California, 1844-1869(1954), and Roy S. Bloss, Pony Express: Fact & Fiction (1991).

Few authors have written about Russell, Majors, and Waddell, the founders of the C.O.C. & P.P. Express Co., other than Raymond W. and Mary Lund Settle. However, for those interested in biographical material, one should also consider Victor M. Berthold, "William H. Russell: Originator and Developer of the Famous Pony Express," Philatelist (January 1929); and Don L. Reynolds, "Grand Old Gentlemen of the Pony Express," Museum Graphic (Spring 1969).

Interest in individual Pony Express riders began in the late 1940s and early 1950s, when genealogists, antiquarians, and amateur and professional historians conducted research to determine such questions as who the first rider for the Pony Express was, and to list the names of individual riders. For the first rider of the Pony Express controversy see Lee Starnes, "The Pony Express Mystery," Museum Graphic (Winter 1951). There is no single authoritative list of Pony Express riders or stationkeepers, although many have attempted to develop a comprehensive list. For an early list of riders with biographical sketches, see Kate B. Carter's Riders of the Pony Express (1947) (reprinted in 1960 as Utah and the Pony Express). This resource is undocumented and also contains an undocumented list of stations and brief histories. Other lists of riders can be found in Raymond W. and Mary Lund Settle's Saddles and Spurs: The Pony Express Saga (1955); Lee Jensen's, The Pony Express: Illustrated with a Unique Collection of Historical Pictures (1955); William Harris Floyd, Phantom Riders of the Pony Express (1958); Roy S. Bloss, Pony Express—The Great Gamble (1959); Nolie Mumey's, Hoofs to Wings: The Pony Express (1960); and Mabel Loving's, The Pony Express Rides On! (1961), all of which place emphasis on the heroic efforts of the riders against the hardships and danger associated with their jobs.

Illustration of "Last Days of the Pony Express." Courtesy of Wyoming State Museum, Cheyenne, WY

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

Last Updated: 17-Jan-2008