Imagine a time when, to get a simple letter from one side of the country to the other, meant using a series of horse riders in a two thousand mile relay race.
In a nutshell, that was The Pony Express.
Before the Express, your letter took its own sweet time crossing the country in a stagecoach. The idea behind the Express was to deliver a letter from St. Joseph, Missouri to Sacramento, California in 10 just days. On horseback. For $5 per half ounce.
The riders would get a fresh horse every ten or so miles and push ahead.
One of the most famous riders was Buffalo Bill Cody. This medallion decorates his grave site on Lookout Mountain in Colorado:
At the age of 15 Cody was on his way west to California when he met up with Pony Express agents along the way and signed on with the company. Cody helped in the construction of several way-stations. Thereafter, he was employed as a rider and was given a short 45-mile delivery run from the township of Julesburg which lay to the west. After some months he was transferred to Slade’s Division in Wyoming where he made the longest non-stop ride from Red Buttes Station to Rocky Ridge Station and back when he found that his relief rider had been killed. The distance of 322 miles over one of the most dangerous sections of the entire trail was completed in 21 hours and 40 minutes. It took a total of 21 horses to complete this run. Cody was present for every significant chapter in young western history, including the gold rush, the building of the railroads, and cattle herding on the Great Plains—and found himself playing a part in nearly every one of these crucial stages of development. A career as a scout during the Civil War earned him his nickname and established his notoriety as a model frontiersman.