No-One Remembers Russell, Majors & Waddell

In the spring of 1860, following Greeley’s overland adventure, with the nation perched on the brink of civil war, Russell, Majors & Waddell established a subsidiary business, a privately financed gamble designed to prove that mail could be moved quickly—in ten days or less across nearly two thousand miles of still-wild North America. To do this, they would use a relay system of experienced riders and the best horses money could buy. No one today remembers the names Russell, Majors & Waddell or the vast freighting empire they presided over in the good years before the Civil War. No one remembers their rolling armada of tens of thousands of oxen, vast fleets of oxen, vast fleets of wagons, or armies of bullwhackers—the greatest such venture of its kind ever assembled. Their legacy would be the most obscure of footnotes in the history of the opening of the American West but for the little venture into which they poured their fates and fortunes. They spun the business off their stage line operations linking the Missouri with Denver and Salt Lake City, calling it the Central Overland California & Pike’s Peak Express Company. The name was too long-even its initials, COC&PPEC, were too cumbersome—and so it was called simply the Pony Express.