The Sacramento Bee
The Pony Express Rides Again
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This week, mail enthusiasts, horseback riders and onlookers are celebrating the Pony Express’ 163rd anniversary with a nearly 2,000-mile trek from Old Sacramento, Calif., to St. Joseph, Mo.
The National Pony Express Association, along with the U.S. Postal Service, will host the annual ride in which 1,500 postal customers will have their mail delivered to the Midwest in 10 days, through the same system used for 18 months in 1860 and 1861.
“It’s a big-rooted event in time,” said Gina Segura, a USPS spokeswoman. “It’s just a great way to keep the history of Sacramento intertwined with the postal service.”
The event is set to begin at the official Pony Express statue in Old Sacramento at 1:30 p.m. PDT June 7 and will be conducted over a 10-day period, 24 hours a day with riders switching off every 10 miles — just like the Old West riders would do.
The riders will depart Sacramento at 2 p.m. PDT, according to the association’s website. A rider will arrive in St. Joseph around 7:30 p.m. CDT on June 17.
What Is the Pony Express?
According to the National Park Service, the Pony Express was a method of connecting the East to the West. Due to thousands moving west on the Oregon Trail as a result of the Gold Rush, people needed a faster way to deliver mail across the Rocky Mountains. The Pony Express soon became the quickest way to deliver a letter.
The Pony Express filled this need pre-Civil War, predating western railroad expansion and the coast-to-coast telegraph, according to the Smithsonian National Postal Museum.
A rider prepares to mount up in Nebraska during a past year event. (Mary Cone via nationalponyexpress.org)
Who Is Riding the Pony Express?
Six hundred riders will take part in the event carrying the traditional mochila, or rucksack, which was used in the 1800s.
To begin, riders from the NPEA’s state divisions will meet to take the traditional Pony Express Oath before beginning their course to Missouri.
“There’s an oath that the rider must take prior to their journey, and we’ll be sending off our letters. Only 1,500 lucky customers can get their letters on the horse to make its journey across the states,” USPS’ Segura said.
Sacramento Postmaster Tanya Toedt-Fitzharris will do the swear-in for this year’s riders.
Why Do We Still Commemorate the Pony Express?
Although the original Pony Express was a small event in American history, the NPEA, USPS and history buffs commemorate the event every year to keep its tradition and significance alive.
“The Postal Service got involved, because the Sacramento postmaster started sending letters of sisterhood to Missouri,” Segura said. “We thought it would be a fun, unique way to get that across.”
Segura said the Sacramento Postal Customer Council began writing these letters of sisterhood three years ago and sending them on the pony. Missouri hopped on board and started sending letters back in fellowship.
California State NPEA President Rich Tatman said that although the Pony Express was a short chapter in history, it is important to keep its story alive.
“So many things are dying out from our historical standpoint,” said Tatman. “This is something that a lot of our founding members thought would be a good thing.”
While the Pony Express is something that Tatman said is very important to history, the NPEA is losing its members and interest from others, because it is harder to get younger people involved.
How to Track the Horses
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