Bring Back The Pony Express!

It was 161 years ago today that the first Pony Express riders set out to deliver the mail.  From History.com …

On April 3, 1860, the first Pony Express mail, traveling by horse and rider relay teams, simultaneously leaves St. Joseph, Missouri, and Sacramento, California. Ten days later, on April 13, the westbound rider and mail packet completed the approximately 1,800-mile journey and arrived in Sacramento, beating the eastbound packet’s arrival in St. Joseph by two days and setting a new standard for speedy mail delivery. Although ultimately short-lived and unprofitable, the Pony Express captivated America’s imagination and helped win federal aid for a more economical overland postal system. It also contributed to the economy of the towns on its route and served the mail-service needs of the American West in the days before the telegraph or an efficient transcontinental railroad.

The Pony Express debuted at a time before radios and telephones, when California, which achieved statehood in 1850, was still largely cut off from the eastern part of the country. Letters sent from New York to the West Coast traveled by ship, which typically took at least a month, or by stagecoach on the recently established Butterfield Express overland route, which could take from three weeks to many months to arrive. Compared to the snail’s pace of the existing delivery methods, the Pony Express’ average delivery time of 10 days seemed like lightning speed.

The Pony Express Company, the brainchild of William H. Russell, William Bradford Waddell and Alexander Majors, owners of a freight business, was set up over 150 relay stations along a pioneer trail across the present-day states of Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, Nevada and California. Riders, who were paid approximately $25 per week and carried loads estimated at up to 20 pounds of mail, were changed every 75 to 100 miles, with horses switched out every 10 to 15 miles. Among the riders was the legendary frontiersman and showman William “Buffalo Bill” Cody (1846-1917), who reportedly signed on with the Pony Express at age 14. The company’s riders set their fastest time with Lincoln’s inaugural address, which was delivered in just less than eight days.

The initial cost of Pony Express delivery was $5 for every half-ounce of mail. The company began as a private enterprise and its owners hoped to gain a profitable delivery contract from the U.S. government, but that never happened. With the advent of the first transcontinental telegraph line in October 1861, the Pony Express ceased operations. However, the legend of the lone Pony Express rider galloping across the Old West frontier to deliver the mail lives on today.

You might be wondering why I’m making a big deal over this, but bear with me.

The United States Postal Service (USPS) was actually already in existence when the Pony Express came onto the mail delivery scene, having been established in 1775 with Benjamin Franklin as its first Postmaster General.  So, why the need for the Pony Express nearly a full century later?  Because the USPS wasn’t doing such a great job, apparently.

Now, the reason I bring up the Pony Express is that once again, the USPS is doing a pretty lousy job under the leadership of the highly unqualified Louis DeJoy.  DeJoy just announced a new “10-year plan,” which is one way to describe the largest rollback of consumer mail services in a generation. His plan includes longer first-class mail delivery times, reduced post office hours, and higher prices.  It seems to me that his ’plan’ is already in action, as the last card I sent took 15 days to arrive at its destination.

Last year DeJoy crippled the Postal Service. He banned employee overtime, decommissioned mail-sorting machines, and removed drop boxes. He did this during a deadly pandemic that had millions of Americans relying on the mail for their medications, businesses, and safely voting by mail in November’s election.

Speaking of medications … my insulin sat in the Post Office from last Saturday until this past Wednesday … unrefrigerated and undelivered.  Why?  Good question, and one I fully intend to ask Mr. DeJoy!  Although … he hasn’t answered either of my last two letters … perhaps the USPS hasn’t managed to deliver them yet?  Funny that they sit on my insulin, but manage to deliver all the junk mail that goes straight into the trash bin.

President Biden has nominated three members to the USPS Board of Governors with the intention of removing Mr. DeJoy and hiring someone qualified to do the job without costing us an arm and a leg and ensuring that our mail is delivered in a timely fashion.  But of course, the Senate must have much more important business to attend to, for they haven’t yet gotten ‘round to confirming these three.

So, I’m wondering if it might be a good idea to re-instate the Pony Express?  We would, no doubt, get our mail quicker and for about the same price.  Given the volume of mail in this country, there’s no doubt they could upgrade to faster horses and think how many jobs would be created!  We could leave the USPS in place for the time being, a service for those who seem to like being ripped off by our own government.

32 thoughts on “Bring Back The Pony Express!

  1. One thing that puzzles me is that in the USA, the supposed ideal model of capitalism, the federal government owns and operated a monopoly mail service, whereas here in Aotearoa New Zealand (which according to the American right is a socialist/communist/fascist state, pick your preferred poison) we have a deregulated competitive system. Perhaps the US should consider opening the USPS to competition?

    Liked by 1 person

    • well it’s already got competition from places like fed-ex, etc. but you’re right that the government shouldn’t have its grubby little mits in at all.

      If a private business raised rates every few years but the service level didn’t increase accordingly, they’d rightfully be out of business.

      However, the government can screw the people forever and most people are too stupid and lazy to vote for real change.

      We don’t have capitalism here, we have crony capitalism, the government bails out the rich all the time while giving the common people crumbs for assistance, just look at the latest stupid corona bill, how much of that money goes to special interests and boards which the politicians are on?

      How much corporate welfare does big business get and how many big corporations were conveniently open during the pandemic when small businesses had to close.

      It’s all crap and it all sucks and people are just going to go back to sleep because they’re lazy and stupid and don’t really give a damn about anything except their stupid phones

      All of those stupid people don’t read these blogs either.

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    • If we are the ideal model of capitalism, then capitalism is a failure for 90% of the people. Capitalism here has run amok and benefits only the wealthy corporations. But that aside, there has been talk for years of privatizing the USPS, outsourcing it to a corporate interest. Most, including myself, have been against that idea, for I could see greed turning it into a cost-prohibitive venture for many of us, but after the past year or so … almost anything would be better!

      Liked by 1 person

      • If the mail is deregulated then competition should keep prices low. As I understand it, only the USPS (or its contracted agents) can deliver mail to letterboxes. That’s never been the case here, but until around 40 years ago, stamped addressed letters could only be delivered by what was then the Post Office. Its corporatised successor known as Post Shop is now just one of several players in the market, albeit the largest one. And it returns a profit.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, from what I understand, most postal employees were horrified when told to leave mail on the floor at the post office, and when the sorting machines were removed, and when they weren’t allowed to make additional runs even during the holiday rush. I think they will welcome some experienced, intelligent management!
      Cwtch

      Liked by 1 person

  2. A worthy topic; good to remind us all. And time to pressure our Senators.

    So sorry to hear about your insulin. Hope it’s salvageable! I can’t imagine how many people are being put in danger due to delayed or lost prescriptions. Another leftover disgrace from the failed Presidency of the former guy.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Agreed … I’d like to see DeJoy gone and a saner, more experienced administration in long before the winter holidays, else we may need to mail Christmas packages in July!

      Oh, it’s fine, it just angers me that right on the box it says “RUSH — perishable insulin”, and yet they held onto it for 5 days. I received an email on Saturday that it would be delivered on Wednesday, tried to call the Post Office, but to no avail. Yes, I think we will suffer from the policies of the former guy for many years to come.

      Like

    • Oh you know it! I’m hoping that current administration is gone long before the winter holidays … last Christmas, every one of my packages arrived late — one was even more than a month late — even though I had mailed them in plenty of time.

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  3. you make good points on this post and the same can be said of our internet. Why just yesterday, I was saying “Bring back the twine and paper cups” as I’d get better speeds than I currently do with charter.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks, Scott! Yes, I’ve been having trouble with our Internet ever since their last ‘upgrade’ a month or so ago! Oh, I remember twine and paper cups … much fun back in the day! However, I think 4,000 miles of twine might be cost-prohibitive!

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  4. I agree with you that the mail service has declined so bad and there is no excuse for them doing that with your insulin!! I actually did a post about the Pony Express awhile back and you are right the mail may get delivered faster that way, but like you said, it really was dangerous. Each Pony Express rider had to take an oath that they would give their life before letting their mailbag be stolen. That’s why they wanted you to be single and to be an orphan. The orphans were desperate for money so many of them took on the risk. Maybe it wouldn’t be as dangerous today!

    Liked by 2 people

    • My first inclination was to say that since we no longer live in the “wild west”, it should be much safer, but then … I remembered that this is a nation that defines the gun culture, with more guns in the hands of civilians than there are civilians. So, it might indeed be a very dangerous job! Something has to give, though … we certainly cannot be expected to pay more for less service!!! Sigh.

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  5. I always loved the idea of the pony express when I was a child – a pony mad child. I probably thought I could ride with the mail. There there must have been a pony express drama amongs the cowboy shows. Notable on that poster it says must be under eighteeen and skinny.

    Liked by 2 people

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