Legacy of the Pony Epress

Today William B. Waddell, William H. Russell, and Alexander Majors are best known, not for their great fleets of lumbering prairie schooners drawn by thousands of oxen across the vast Great Plains to military posts in New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, and Utah, or for the swift Concord stage coaches plying between the Missouri river and Denver, Salt Lake City, and the West Coast, but for having conceived, organized, financed, and operated the incredible Pony Express. Waddell and Majors did not want it, and Russell himself apologized to them for having inaugurated it. It cost Russell, Majors & Waddell at least $500,000, ran only about 18 months and failed to achieve the purpose for which it was organized. And yet despite these somber facts the thrilling story of that fabulous organization long ago became one of the most treasured items in American folklore. Almost every public, college, and university library has at least one book on it, and it is included in the approved reading lists for public schools. More than a dozen  volumes devoted exclusively to it have been issued since the first one appeared in 1908. Two of these were released late in 1959, and others have appeared in 1960. In addition it has appeared in pamphlet form, as chapters in books on other subjects, and in magazines and newspapers hundreds of times. As the story is told and retold by historians and writers public interest in it continues to mount. . . .

The 2,000-mile, nonstop relay line of men and horses founded and operated by Russell, Majors & Waddell was unique in the history of communication. In detail of organization, method and efficiency of operation, and speed of transmission it had no pred-ecessor and no successor. Not even the famed messenger service inaugurated by Genghis Khan is to be compared with it.