1960 Anniversary

Americans love anniversaries, and as 1960 approached, the country rediscovered the legacy of the Pony Express. A century made it possible for a whole new level of enthusiasm. By the time the centennial was planned, there was no one alive who had been there, and the celebrants were relying on memories and a very odd collection of books. Previous celebrations to honor the memory of the Pony Express—1935 was the seventy-fifth birthday—had been odd affairs. In 1954, a group of riders at the behest of the National Junior Chamber of Commerce reenacted the days of the Pony Express by racing day and night from Ogden, Utah, to Colorado Springs, nowhere near the actual route.

As the centennial approached, Waddell F. Smith, grandson of William Bradford Waddell, and the greatest professional Pony Express promoter of modern times, made himself known. Smith operated the Russell, Majors & Waddell Pony Express Foundation and Pony Express History and Art Gallery out of his home in San Rafael, California. In 1960, he produced The Story of the Pony Express: Official 1960 Centennial Edition. He called himself the editor, but the book is none other than Glenn Danford Bradley’s little tome reissued- and annotated-with an index by Smith. . . .

The actual observation of the centennial was as comic as the debate in California. One of the reriders staging the cross-country mail run accidentally shot another. The low point occurred when the reriders were unable to bring the mail overland on time and their tired horses had to be put on a truck. When they finally showed up in Old Sac, the mail pouch had been accidentally left behind.