Yesterday’s Google homepage doodle celebrated the 155th anniversary of the Pony Express with (an addicting) video game. In it, players are tasked with collecting 100 postal letters while outrunning bandits, avoiding cactus, and other obstacles. Click on the image below to play!
On April 14, 1860 the first Pony Express riders arrived in St. Joseph, MO and Sacramento, CA with a mochila saddle (from the Spanish word for pouch) of letters. Each mochila contained 20 pounds of mail, water, a bible, horn, and revolver. This high risk job paid $100 per month, compared to other unskilled labor wages of 50¢ per day.
The Pony Express was approximately a 1,900 mile long route with 184 stations spanning 8 states. An estimated 80 workers were traveling East or West at any given time. Riders were required to weigh less than 125 pounds, and as an alleged advertisement stated, “Wanted: Young, skinny, wiry fellows not over eighteen. Must be expert riders, willing to risk death daily. Orphans preferred.”
Having the ability to quickly deliver letters, newspapers, telegrams and small packages in the West was vital, especially as the population in California boomed. This service came at a high price, however, at about $5 per 1/2 ounce letter. Later, the price was reduced to $1 per letter (equivalent to almost $30 today), still an incredibly expensive procedure for the masses.
In the brief 19 months of operation, approximately 35,000 letters were delivered through the Pony Express. Today, the USPS processes 5,935 pieces of mail every second – no horsing around.