A system of rapid mail transportation by relays of horses that operated from St. Joseph, Missouri, to Sacramento, California, in 1860–1861.
A system of carrying and delivering mail by riders on swift ponies; specif., such a system in operation from April, 1860, to October, 1861, between St. Joseph, Mo., and Sacramento, Calif.
The Pony Express began service on April 3, 1860, with the promise that it could deliver a letter from St. Louis, Missouri, to Sacramento, California (a distance of 1,966 miles), in 10 days or less, and that is exactly what it did. Tough young riders, each of whom weighed no more than 125 pounds, rode 75 to 100 miles at an average speed of about 10 miles per hour, changing mounts every 10 to 15 miles. Riders earned about $100 per month for risking their lives on a daily basis.The cost for sending a half-ounce letter by Pony Express initially was $5.00, and was later reduced to $1.00, which is approximately $21.00 in present-day dollars, considering inflation. Eighteen months later, the completion of the Western Union transcontinental telegraph (October 24, 1861) network put the Pony Express out of business. See also telegraph and Western Union.