Pony Express Facts: Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Elizabeth Diehl

Elizabeth studied to be a special education teacher at Regis University, and received her masters in 2014.

Nowadays it is very easy and fast to send a message to a friend far away. But it was not always that way. Let's learn about a mail delivery system that helped connect the east to the west.

Letters by Pony?

Imagine that it is 1860, and you really want to send your favorite aunt a letter. She just moved to California, and you want to update her about how things are going in New York. California is on the opposite side of the country, and in between are vast stretches of wilderness and difficult terrain. Sending a letter by mail takes a really long time. But now there is a new way to deliver mail, by Pony Express!

What Was the Pony Express?

The Pony Express was a way to deliver mail quickly across the mountains and deserts between Missouri and California. Young men on small, fast horses, would ride segments of the trail to bring mail to California. There were about 200 stations, or stops, where riders could rest and prepare for the next ride. Each rider traveled for about 100 miles before switching places with a rested rider. Every 10-15 miles, the rider would trade out his tired horse for a rested horse, and then continue on. More than 400 ponies were needed to keep the Pony Express operating.

At each station, a fresh horse would be waiting for the rider.
saddled horse

Who Invented the Pony Express?

William H. Russell, Alexander Majors and William B. Waddell came together to create a new company, called the Leavenworth & Pike's Peak Express Company, when they noticed how long it took to deliver mail across the United States. The company's long name was given the nickname Pony Express, and it stuck.

Riders had to cross difficult terrain, such as this canyon in Utah.
a canyon

Where Was the Pony Express?

The Pony Express trail started in St. Joseph, Missouri and ended in Sacramento, California, a distance of nearly 2,000 miles. The trail covered a lot of land, from the prairies to mountain passes, and across the desert, before finally ending in Sacramento. While many stations and parts of the trail have long faded away into history, there are parts that you can visit today. For example, you can explore parts of the trail riders took in California to get a feel for what it must have been like to work in the Pony Express.

The Pony Express trail went from Missouri to California
map of Pony Express

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