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Blog > The Little Mail Carriers at the Pony Express Museum!

Did you know that there is such a thing as a Pony Express Museum? The Little Mail Carriers heard about it and wouldn’t stop badgering us to go… so when Duane (aka DuaneThePhilatelist) offered to take them for a visit, they jumped on an envelope and off they went. Here they are, to tell you all the story of that adventure.

Pony Express cancellation mark

Hello from a sunny St. Joseph, Missouri! We’re super excited to be taking a special tour of the Pony Express Museum today, and hopefully will learn a lot about this unique way mail was delivered back in 1860. The museum is actually inside a part of the Pike’s Peak Stables, from which westbound Pony Express riders set out on their journey — how cool!

The Pony Express was a short-lived mail service that delivered newspapers, letters, telegrams as well as government and commercial mail using riders on horses across the United States, between St. Joseph in Missouri and Sacramento in California. Here is a superb map of their route, which you can see in great detail on Wikipedia:

Pony Express Map William Henry Jackson

Why was there a need for this service though? Well, back in 1848, gold was found in California, and a lot of people rushed there in search of the opportunities it brought. California was a new state at the time, and its population was growing fast, so there was a lot of demand to connect the west coast with the rest of the country.

At the time, the Central Overland California and Pikes Peak Express Company ran a stagecoach service between Kansas and Missouri, and they thought that starting an express service could perhaps earn them a more lucrative contract with the United States government. So the Pony Express was launched on April 3, 1860, when two riders left from the opposite ends of the route, and completed their journeys of 1800 miles (or 2896 kms) in 10 days — an amazing feat that many thought would not be possible!

First Pony Express ride

The Pony Express recruitment announcements were infamous for asking for young, skinny men, and stating that orphans were preferred. Although the payment was high for the time, the journey through the country was perilous, as there were often ambushes and raids. Some riders were killed and many horses stolen or driven off in the Pauite War with the Pauite Indian tribe, whose territory the route crossed. The Pony Express was forced to temporarily suspend its services due to the conflict, and some mail was lost.

Recruitment ad from Pony Express

Because this was an express service and the journey had to be super fast, riders could not carry a lot of mail with them. To make changing horses quick at relay stations, a special saddle cover (called a mochila) was crafted, which had four mail pouches (or cantinas) on each corner. Mail had to fit in these small pouches, so that the riders could be quick!

Cantinas and mochila

One of the most famous Pony Express riders was William Cody… aka Buffalo Bill! He began working for the Pony Express at age 15 and is said to have completed the longest ride, covering 322 miles (518 km) in 21 hours and 40 minutes, using 21 horses. His adventures were immortalised (and are said to have been greatly exaggerated) in a novel that launched him into the spotlight. Many more books and movies were made about his adventures, in which he often wore a “cowboy” hat.

Buffalo Bill's hat

Mail carried by the Pony Express riders had its own cancellation mark, and in the museum you get the opportunity to sort the mail yourself. Postal work is hard, and we were exhausted…

Sorting the mail of the Pony Express

The Pony Express never managed to secure that government contract their founders had hoped for, and became bankrupt after 18 months, closing on October 26, 1861 — just 2 days after the first transcontinental telegraph started its operations. Despite having run for only a short period of time, the service is immortalised in the tales of the American West, and the original route is even a national historical trail that crosses 8 states.

Pony Express centennial stamp

And that’s it for our wonderful visit to the Pony Express Museum — we are off to explore a bit more, and hope you all have the opportunity to visit someday!

Pony Express sign

And a big thank you to Duane, for hosting the Little Mail Carriers and showing them around the museum! 😀 Who knows where the little ones are off to next… keep an eye on the blog for their future adventures!

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36 comments so far

Armika, Russia
Hello.I've been on the site recently.I read old records about little postmen, I really liked it.This issue too.Thank you for writing so beautifully.
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kimmedims, Netherlands
Great to read about this interesting phenomenon! Thank you again 😊
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Mosshumla, Sweden
That was a fascinating read! I'd love to visit the museum and learn more about the Pony Express.
Did you all notice the "Not over eighteen" on the recruitment poster?
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jezergirl, Italy
This is really interesting! I love to learn some story facts.
And I'm surprised, I never thought that Pony Express lasted for such short time.
Thank you very much.
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JoDennis, United States of America
Thanks for another fun adventure from the Little Mail Carriers!
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ChattyCathy, United States of America
Fascinating! That "Wanted" poster is scary!
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Lianozovo, Russia
Очень интересно. Буду знать и расскажу своему сыну
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Indreni, United States of America
I am so obsessed with Pony Express! Also, here in WI, there's a cool local living history museum with old-fashioned mail sleighs on display!
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Poste, United States of America
Very nicely written, Thank you! It is always a pleasure to see the little postmen traveling adventures. I have paid my respects at Buffalo Bill Cody's grave site and have crossed the pony express path, at various points in all eight states. I have placed a few of the pony express 4 cent postage stamps on postcards sent to post crossers with other stamps, of course, for the full postage needed.
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RowanP, Netherlands
Thanks, Little Mail Carriers! I hope you get to visit many more places.
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Pemasagirls, France
Very interesting ! I would love to visit this museum and I'm sure my kids would enjoy it too.
Thank you Duane and little mail carriers !
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mysweetlife63, United States of America
Thank you so much Little Mail Carriers & Duane, for a great read!
Loved this one!
d
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nm_rockhound, United States of America
Very cool. I'd love to visit some day.
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mountzzz, United States of America
We visited the Pony Express Museum in Gothenburg, Nebraska this last June. Fascinating. I sent that same postcard to one of the postcrossers.
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kraghavendrabhat, India
Fascinating information.
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tetsu70, Japan
This was a very interesting article. I have the Pony Express stamp in my stamp holdings. I use it when I write to people who like horses and or maps. Thanks for writing the story.
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Toome2, Netherlands
Hi, thank you for again an interesting story!
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Demmi, Romania
Express story! Nice ride :) and thanks for sharing!
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RicksCasablanca, United States of America
I still have some of the commemorative 100 year anniversary stamps issued in 1960. Watch for them on my postcards.
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APol, Poland
I love horses, horses on postcards in history and in Art. I would also like to visit the Pony Express Museum one day!
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Cathubodva, Germany
The postcrossing blog is most interesting 👍👍👍 So many things learnt in few weeks (new postcrosser 😉 ) AND playfully improved my English 😃
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Lider, Russia
Very interesting ! I would love to visit this museum.
Thank you!
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luvwhidbeyisland, United States of America
It was interesting to learn that the Pony Express only ran for a relatively short period of time! Thanks to the Little Mail Carriers for the informative blog post.
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livewire, United States of America
Thanks Duane! That was interesting. I will have to visit the museum if I'm ever in that area!
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TulipRabbit, United States of America
Thanks for sharing!
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CarolBr, United States of America
I work for the USPS, and my first manager had that advertisement saying "orphans preferred" in his office. I didn't realize for a long time that the Pony Express actually had nothing to do with the USPS! I was in St. Joseph in 2010 but didn't know about the museum. The next day, however, we were at Rock Creek Station for the anniversary reenactment of the Pony Express ride. Very cool!
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ALFAVIT, Russia
I love stories like this. Very informative and interesting. Thank you Little Mail Carriers.
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TwasBrillig, United States of America
Great story!
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tpuchalski, United States of America
Wonderful information! Since I grew up in California, we learned about the pony express, but I didn't know about the museum in St. Joseph, MO. I go to Lansing, KS often to visit close friends - we'll have to make that a destination! I'll bet they have some great postcards!
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AutismMom, United States of America
Very interesting! There was TV show in the USA in the late 1980s or early 1990s called “Young Riders” about the Pony Express. Do any American postcrossers remember this? Stephen Baldwin played Buffalo Bill Cody and Josh Brolin played James Hickock.
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isagv, Germany
I was not aware that the pony express only existed for 18 months. Thank you for the information.
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Gertarud, Germany
A couple of years ago there was a Google Doodle celebrating the 150th anniversary of the Pony Express. You had to deliver as many letters as you could in as little time as possible while dodging cactusses, bandits and other obstacles. It was huge fun, sadly they stopped the opportunity to play it.
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beesknees, United States of America
Love this, and I saw the pony express stamp in the carriers passport
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LeighDunn, South Africa
This is amazingly useful info. Thanks so much. I can't wait for the 4th of February because we are going to have such fun
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Flippie, Canada
Thank you so much sharing this story...Life is full of stories, isn't?
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EstebanSG, Argentina
My profile picture is a Pony Express stamp :)
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