The Idea of a Pony Express

“Russell was hardly the first dreamer to conceive a horseback relay system for delivering mail across distances: Marco Polo found a similar system in thirteenth-century China, operating with ‘post stations twenty-five miles apart, and stations for foot carriers three miles apart, on the chief routes through his dominion.’ . . .

The idea of a cross-country express appears to have been first conceived by Ben Ficklin, who planted the idea with California’s U.S. Senator, William M. M. Gwin, while the two men traveled across the continent on horseback in 1854. . . . Russell himself came up with a similar idea in the winter of 1857-58 while traveling across the plains to Utah to deliver supplies to Albert Sidney Johnston’s army there, and he subsequently broached the ides in Washington to Secretary of War Floyd and various senators and congressmen.”