Trivia Minute October 26, 2016

Pony Express: A Legendary 19-Month Failure

by Marcus Michelson

pony_express

On this date in 1861, the Pony Express ceased operations after a 19-month run.

Here are some things you may not of known about the old west mail service.

After the discovery of gold in 1849 and the admission of California as a state in 1850, a faster way to deliver transcontinental mail was needed. At the time, mail could take up to a month to travel from coast to coast.

The Pony Express was founded with the goal of cutting that time to 10 days between St. Joseph, Missouri and San Francisco, California. The goal was thought impossible by many.

The Pony Express system involved a series of horseback riders traveling relatively short distances at high speeds.

When the system started in the winter of 1860 it employed 120 riders on 400 horses going between 184 stations manned by more than 400 support personnel.

The identity of the first rider is in dispute. Depending on the source it was either Billy Richardson or Johnny Fry who departed St. Joseph, Missouri on April 3, 1860.

The first run took 11 days to reach San Francisco. The cost to send a letter via the Pony Express was originally five dollars per half ounce. The equivalent of about $120 per half ounce today.

Gradually, as telegraph service expanded across the country, The Pony Express route was shortened. News of Abraham Lincoln’s election as president of the United States in 1860 was able to be transmitted to the West Coast in just seven days, thanks to the Pony Express and the expansion of telegraph service to Fort Kearny, Nebraska.

Less than a year after service started, the route ran from Salt Lake City to Sacramento, spanning the final gap in telegraph service.

The service ceased on October 26, 1861, two days after the first transcontinental telegraph line was completed at Salt Lake City.

The operation never made money, losing $110,000 over the course of the 19-month run.

Our question: Technically speaking, what is a pony?

Today is National Day in Austria, and Armed Forces Day in Benin.

It’s unofficially National Mule Day, Horseless Carriage Day and National Mincemeat Pie Day.

It’s the birthday of singer Mahalia Jackson, who was born in 1911; U.S. presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, who is 69; and musician Keith Urban who is 49.

Because our topic happened before 1960, we’ll spin the wheel to pick a year at random.

This week in 1992, the top song in the U.S. was “End of the Road” by Boyz II Men.

The No. 1 movie was “Under Seige,” while the novel “The Tale of the Body Thief” by Anne Rice topped the New York Times Bestsellers list.

Weekly question

Matthew Webb, who died trying to swim the Niagara River rapids, was the first person to complete what swimming feat?

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