Words of Advice:

"If Something Seems To Be Too Good To Be True, It's Best To Shoot It, Just In Case." -- Fiona Glenanne

"Flying the Airplane is More Important than Radioing Your Plight to a Person on the Ground
Who is Incapable of Understanding or Doing Anything About It." -- Unknown

“Never argue with stupid people, they will drag you down to their level
and then beat you with experience.” -- Mark Twain

"Stay Strapped or Get Clapped." -- probably not Mr. Rogers

"Eck!" -- George the Cat

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

158 Years Ago

On this day in 1860, the first Pony Express rider left St. Joseph, MO with a mail pouch. The mail reached San Francisco on April 14th.

After all of the celebratory folderol and speechifying was finished, the westbound rider departed at 7:15PM. There's no real way to tell when that was, now, as each town kept their own time back then (based on local solar noon), as that was 23 years before Standard Time (also known as Railroad Time) was introduced. Many places refused to adopt standard time, preferring to set their time by the Sun than by some bureaucratic decree. Standard Time became the law during the Great War.

But I digress.

The Pony Express route was 1,900 miles long, broken up into divisions, stages and stations. A rider would change his horse at each station. Another rider would take over at each stage. In an era where a working man may be paid between $12 and $30 a month, the riders were paid $100. the first westbound trip took 11 days, the first eastbound trip took ten days.

It would seem that there was combined telegraph-Pony Express service, as vital news and information went by telegraph to the western end of the line and then by Pony Express to the eastern end of the western telegraph line. News of Abraham Lincoln's election made it to California in less than eight days, which was unheard of at the time.

The Pony Express was doomed as soon as the transcontinental telegraph was completed. It went out of business two days after the telegraph line was completed in 1861.

By the 1880s, if not sooner, the wealthy (it cost north of $100 one way) could ride express passenger trains in relative comfort from New York to Oakland in five days or less. (A special express train made that trip in less than four days.) By the 1900s, regular passenger rail service could take one from New York to San Francisco in just over three days.

In 1929, the trip could be made on Transcontinental Air Transport in 48 hours or so hours for $336. That involved riding a train at night and flying in a Ford Tri-Motor during the day. TAT became TWA, which introduced the DC-2 and DC-3; which made the trip all in the air and in about 18 hours.

In 75 years, the time it took to send an express letter from NYC to San Francisco went from about two weeks to overnight. The cost of sending a letter went from $5 for a half-ounce letter to five cents for airmail.

Domestic airmail is now a thing of the past.


Ole Phat Stu said...

Recommended (funny) reading on Pony Express versus Telegraph :
Terry Pratchett's "Going Postal".


Nangleator said...

Pony Express has been such a fixture of popular culture, I never realized it lasted so briefly.

CenterPuke88 said...

The Pony Express, much like the “Wild West”, has a talismanic value to the “Merican”. It represents, to them, a time when America WAS America, instead of the sissified country they believe we have become. Just as many wonder why we can’t go back to the he good old days, without considering who it was good for (white, wealthy males, and that’s about it), this concept makes them feel warm and fuzzy inside because it shows everyone that American can do it! What it really showed was that for a loss of a half a million dollars, over 2 years, they got a buttload of stories and imagination.

The Pony Express charged $5 per half ounce, dropping to $2.50 and finally $1. In today’s money, that’s roughly $90, $45 and $18 for a small letter. Only the wealthy would use this service, as the average laborer made around $0.10 an hour in 1860, and others like blacksmiths and carpenters still made $0.20 an hour or less. What Comrade didn’t mention, is that the monthly income figure is often based upon a 60 hour work week (6 days, 10 hours per day).

The replacement telegraph cost no less per message, but arrived at the speed of electricity.

Comrade Misfit said...

And now we have "Priority Mail". The last priority mail package I received took five days to travel 800 miles.

Eck! said...

There are many things about the "old West" Gary Cooper did a documentary about the west he was a part of when young and made movies about when older. The movie "The Real West" was 1961. It was a narrow window in time but one where technical advances in travel and communications had a great impact.

From my perspective travel and communications were very interconnected. Telegraph
used electricity but Continental telegraph Code was still fairly slow typically 20-40 works per minute, some long lines were slower. Transportation moved people, mail,
Newspapers, as well as books. The latter two had an effect as they carried detail or opinion of what ever the topic. In the end its information and the information age had its first acceleration on the USA then. from that ideas and inventions moved, developed and were refined.

One of the inventions for flying that made night flight possible was the idea of airways, markers on the ground then electronic markers used with receivers in the air. Without those airmail and travel were hazardous at night or poor weather.

They are all knotted together bt travel and information did change the country.
As they got faster and greater involume the rate of change accelerated.


CenterPuke88 said...

Eck!, don’t forget the telegraph also begat the wires (AP, UPI, etc...). Even before the wires, big stories were minimized to reduce the time/cost of transmission, and sent over the wires, so newspapers had stories the next day and became must reads.