10/03/05 - the pony express

In today's excerpt - the Pony Express is revealed as a bad investment:

"Even shorter-lived [than the Overland Mail Company] was the Pony Express. Inaugurated on April 3, 1860, it was designed to carry mail as quickly as possible from St. Joseph, Missouri to Sacramento, California. Riders rode in relays, each averaging fifty to eighty miles a day (though some occasionally went as far as three hundred miles without a rest) carrying mail pouch or mochila, as it was more normally called.  On an average run, seventy-five riders would cover the two thousand miles between Missouri and California in ten and a half days. It was a fabulous achievement, but economic folly. Setting up and maintaining riders, horses and way stations was an exceedingly costly business. The express's investors sank $700,000 into the service and, despite charging a whopping $5 an ounce for letters, never made back more than a fraction of their costs. By late 1861, barely nineteen months after starting, the Pony Express was out of business, a victim of the newly installed telegraph and its own inescapable costs."


Bill Bryson


Made in America: An Informal History of the English Language in the United States


First Avon Books


Copyright 1994 by Bill Bryson


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