Pony Express history is partly fact and largely legend. The publications listed below are a mustang-mix of both, despite the best intentions of their authors. Readers who prefer their history securely documented and controlled may be in for a rough ride, for hardly a statement ever written about the Pony Express has escaped challenge. But readers who don't mind loosening the reins, will enjoy a wild gallop through the American mythos. Myth has been defined as "a story that may never have happened but is always true." What could be more mythic than the iconic lone rider braving the Western landscape and its dangers in order to fulfill his mission?

Traveling the Trail Today

  • Benson, Joe. The Traveler's Guide to the Pony Express Trail. Helena, Montana: Falcon Press Publishing, 1995.

See also the National Park Service Auto Tour Route Interpretive Guide series, available for download from this website and in hard copy from the National Park Service and various trail visitor venues.

General Trail History

Most of the books listed below attempt to be purely factual. William Lightfoot Visscher's book, however, is a rollicking yarn that helped create the lasting legend of the Pony Express.

  • Bloss, Roy S. Pony Express – The Great Gamble. Berkeley: Howell-North Press, 1959.
  • Bureau of Land Management. The Pony Express in Nevada. Carson City: Nevada State Museum, 1996.
  • Corbett, Christopher. Orphans Preferred: The Twisted Truth and Lasting Legend of the Pony Express. New York: Broadway Books, 2003.
  • Di Certo, Joseph J. The Saga of the Pony Express. Missoula, Montana: Mountain Press Publishing, 2002.
  • Godfrey, Anthony, Roy Webb, and Jeff Gnass. Pony Express, Voyage of Discovery: The Story Behind the Scenery. Las Vegas: KC Publications, 1999.
  • Guthrie, C. W. The Pony Express: An Illustrated History. Guilford, Connecticut, and Helena, Montana: Globe Pequot Press, 2010.
  • Hafen, LeRoy R. The Overland Mail, 1849-1869. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2004. (Originally published in 1926.)
  • Hill, William. The Pony Express Trail: Yesterday and Today. Caldwell, Idaho: Caxton Press, 2010.
  • Reinfeld, Fred. Pony Express. Lincoln and London: University of Nebraska Press/Bison Books, 1973.
  • Settle, Raymond, and Mary Lund Settle. War Drums and Wagon Wheels: The Story of Russell, Majors and Waddell. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1966.
  • Settle, Raymond, and Settle, Mary Lund. Saddles and Spurs: The Pony Express Saga. Lincoln and London: University of Nebraska Press/Bison Books, 1972.
  • Settle, Raymond, and Settle,Mary Lund. The Story of the Pony Express. W. Foulsham & Co., 1974.
  • Townley, John M. The Over-Land Stage: A History & Guidebook. Reno: Jamison Station Press, 1994.
  • Visscher, William Lightfoot. A Thrilling and Truthful History of the Pony Express; or, Blazing the Westward Way and Other Sketches and Incidents of those Stirring Times Chicago: Rand, McNally & Company, 1908.

Personal Accounts of the Trail

Eyewitness (or purported eyewitness) accounts of the Pony Express are mostly scattered through periodicals from the early 1900s. Some accounts are anecdotes within longer published works, such Major Howard Egan's diary. These are some of the first-person chronicles of the Pony Express experience.

The below two books by Captain Sir Richard Burton provide descriptions of stage and mail stations, their personnel, and their rustic customer service during his trip west in 1860:

Other Cultures of the Trail

The following books tell very little about the Pony Express but explain much about the impacts of commercial and emigrant trail traffic on native peoples. Egan's book documents the the Pyramid Lake War, which shut down the Pony Express for about a month in 1860.

  • Cuch, Forrest, Editor. A History of Utah's American Indians. Salt Lake City: Utah State Division of Indian Affairs/Utah State Division of History, 2003.
  • Crum, Steven J. Po'I Pentun Tammen Kimmappeh: The Road on Which We Came. A History of the Western Shoshone. Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 1994.
  • Egan, Ferol. Sand in a Whirlwind: The Paiute Indian War of 1860. New York: Doubleday, 1972.
  • Gibbon, Guy. The Sioux: The Dakota and Lakota Nations. Malden, Massachusetts: Blackwell, 2003.
  • Hebard, Grace Raymond. Washakie, Chief of the Shoshones. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1995. (An account of Wyoming's Eastern Shoshone people, originally published in 1930)
  • Hopkins, Sarah Winnemucca. Life Among the Piutes: Their Wrongs and Claims. Reno: University of Nevada Press, 1994. (Originally published in 1883.)
  • Inter-Tribal Council of Nevada. NEWE: A Western Shoshone History. Reno: Inter-Tribal Council of Nevada, 1976.
  • Inter-Tribal Council of Nevada. NUMA: A Northern Paiute History. Reno: Inter-Tribal Council of Nevada, 1976.
  • Inter-Tribal Council of Nevada. WA SHE SHU: A Washo Tribal History. Reno: Inter-Tribal Council of Nevada, 1976.
  • Madsen, Brigham D. The Northern Shoshoni. Caldwell, Idaho: Caxton Press, 1999.
  • Moore, John H. The Cheyenne. Malden, Massachusetts: Blackwell, 1996, 1999.
  • Secrest, William. When the Great Spirit Died: The Destruction of the California Indians. Fresno: Quill Driver Books/Word Dancer Press, 2002.
  • Wishart, David. An Unspeakable Sadness: The Dispossession of the Nebraska Indians. Lincoln and London: University of Nebraska Press, 1994.

For Children

  • DiCerto, Joseph. The Pony Express: Hoofbeats in the Wilderness. Franklin Watts, 1989.
  • Landau, Elaine. The Pony Express. Danbury, Connecticut: Children's Press, 2006.
  • Moody, Ralph. Riders of the Pony Express. Lincoln and London: University of Nebraska Press/Bison Books, 2004. (Originally published in 1958.)

Last updated: January 31, 2020

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