The year 1860 is the United States as the year that saw the birth of the Pony Express. The opening up of the West brought the need for faster and faster communications, and the Pony Express riders carried the mail at breakneck speed. They were young men chosen for their light weight, horsemanship and powers of endurance. They had light saddles and their mailbag was known as a ‘mochila’ – a leather blanket with four pockets, which fitted over the saddle. The pockets were lined with oilskin. They carried letters weighing not more than half an ounce, each bearing a ten cent U.S. stamp and a $5 Pony Express stamp.
The riders rode from relay station to relay station where fresh horses were waiting. These ‘home stations’ were 120-160 km apart. The service undertook to deliver letters from east to west in thirteen days. The speed for the route of just under 3,200 km covered by the Pony Express, which more or less followed the Oregon-California Trail, had to average 14 km an hour whatever the hazards.
Among the famous Pony Express riders were William ‘Buffalo Bill’ Cody and ‘Pony Bob’ Haslam. The Pony Express, one of the legends of the West, lasted only eighteen months. It could not compete with the transcontinental telegraph line, completed in October 1861, and was discontinued.