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Early letter delivery

By the 1840s the flow of pioneers to the Northwest via the Oregon Trail, the Mormon migration come Utah, and also the flood of inhabitants (and prospectors after ~ the gold strikes that 1848) come California had actually created raising demand because that mail shipment to and also from the East. Sending mail from the East coast to mountain Francisco via steamship to be one solution, yet the long, hazardous journey associated sailing either approximately the southern guideline of southern America and also up the West coastline of the ameri or under to malaria-ridden Panama, whereby the isthmus to the Pacific would certainly be crossed by mule and canoe and then the last leg the the pilgrimage to California perfect by one more steamer. Either way, the expedition took months. That was likewise expensive, costing the government an ext than $700,000 yearly while return little much more than $200,000 in postage. Even after a railroad had been completed across the Isthmus the Panama in January 1855, steamship delivery remained inadequately slow.


The alternative—overland travel across the desolate terrain west that the Missouri River—was dangerous and unreliable. The very first attempt in ~ overland mail service to the West shore came in 1851, once George Chorpenning and also Absalom Woodward contracted through the U.S. Federal government for monthly delivery of mail between Sacramento, California, and Salt Lake City, Utah, by way of the Carson Valley. Come facilitate delivery, they arranged for part crude stations come be erected along the route. That service, combined with stagecoach-delivered business from Salt Lake City eastern to Independence, Missouri (which had currently been initiated, ~ above July 1, 1850, through Samuel H. Woodson), successfully established continuous overland transcontinental letter delivery. Overall, this mail business was satisfactory, although that was sometimes late because of negative weather (especially throughout the winter) or fell victim to strikes by native Americans.

While Chorpenning and also Woodward’s operations at some point foundered, john Butterfield created a new southern letter route. (Woodward died on a failed Sacramento come Salt Lake City journey in may 1851; W.M.F. Magraw and John M. Hockaday took end the Salt Lake to independence route in 1854.) The Butterfield Overland mail Company—a consortium of four express companies: Adams, American, National, and Wells, Fargo & Company—signed a six-year contract through the U.S. Government on September 15, 1857. The Butterfield (or Oxbow) course went native St. Louis, Missouri, southern to tiny Rock, Arkansas, with El Paso, Texas, climate west to Yuma, Arizona, on to Los Angeles, and also north to mountain Francisco, for a total distance of part 2,700 miles (4,350 km) over a 25-day schedule. The Butterfield service, however, was prone to attacks by the Apache, Comanche, and also Kiowa peoples. (Moreover, v the start of the Civil battle in 1861, most of the Butterfield Overland mail line would certainly be disrupted and also destroyed by Confederate troops.) In the late 1850s other routes were attempted v varying levels of success, including one that ran from Kansas City, Missouri, to Stockton, California, an additional with mountain Diego, California, and San Antonio, Texas, together its terminus points, and still one more ocean-overland course from new Orleans through steamship come Mexico, across the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, and then by sea again to san Francisco.

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Fort Bridger in Wyoming served as a Pony Express, Overland Stage, and also transcontinental telegraph terminal in the 1860s and was garrisoned through the U.S. Army between 1857 and 1890.

With battle seemingly imminent and also the Butterfield route compromised by growing North-South tension, there to be an urgent need for rapid central-route mail company despite the widespread id that dependable business along a central route to be impossible. It to be this need that gave rise to the idea of the Pony Express.