A Dramatic Gesture

“The Post Office Department’s greatest prize—the $600,000-a-year contract held by John Butterfield’s rival California mail operation—still had nearly five years to run. But Russell sensed that opposition to Butterfield’s ‘ox bow’ route was mounting because of its length as well as its southern location. He also sensed that George Chorpenning’s mail contract from Salt Lake to California, which paid $130,00 a year, might be vulnerable. Russell further surmised that his existing stagecoach lines to Denver and Salt Lake City, by themselves, wouldn’t persuade the Post Office Department to cancel Butterfield’s California mail contract and turn it over to Russell. What was needed was some dramatic gesture that would seize the imagination of the public and politicians alike.”