Starting the Pony Express

Only sixty-seven days after William Russell sent his famous telegram to his son announcing his intentions of putting a Pony Express on the road, the first riders left from St. Joe and Sacramento. To put this risky venture in motion, Russell, Majors & Waddell divided the route into five sections and placed seasoned frontiersmen in charge of each division. The firm then began buying the best horses available, paying upwards of $200 a horse (nearly $4,000 by today’s reckoning)—big money. The operation was highly secretive. Russell, Majors & Waddell was already in debt (although that was not widely known), and it would be even further in arrears after this operation was in working order. (Alexander Majors’s son, Greene, who lived until the 1930s and was a municipal judge in California, wrote later that his father’s business spent $100,000 in gold coin to outfit the line-the equivalent of $2 million today.)