An ongoing list of books about the Pony Express Trail, Bikepacking, etc. I’ll update the list as I get through each.

Slade’s Wells Fargo Colt

John B. McClernan, Slade's Wells Fargo Colt (Historical Notes) This is a short, wonderful book. Ostensibly, it is about one collector's attempt to authenticate an antique New Navy Colt as…

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The Year of Decision

Bernard DeVoto, The Year of Decision: 1846 (1942) This book took a long time to read. It's very well written—I mean, DeVoto is pretty much the Dean of western historical…

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A Route for the Overland Stage

Jesse G. Patterson, A Route for the Overland Stage: James H. Simpson's 1859 Trail Across the Great Basin (2008) This is a wonderful, unpretentious, highly informative book. To quote from the…

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Ben Holladay, The Stagecoach King

J.V. Frederick, Ben Holladay, The Stagecoach King (1940) This book is something of a biography of Ben Holliday, who developed a virtual monopoly on stagecoaching in the 1860s west. He…

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Saddles and Spurs

Mary Lund Settle and Raymond W. Settle, Saddles and Spurs (1955) Saddles and Spurs is one of the seminal books on the Pony Express. Every later work I've read references…

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Prairie Schooner Detours

Irene D. Paden, Prairie Schooner Detours (1949) This is a follow up book to Paden's The Wake of the Prairie Schooner. The first book stuck to the Oregon and California…

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The Wagonmasters

Henry Pickering Walker, The Wagonmasters (1966) This book is subtitled "High Plains Freighting from the Earliest Days of the Santa Fe Trail to 1880." It is a fairly thorough account of…

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The Mormon Conflict

Norman F. Furniss, The Mormon Conflict: 1850–1859 (1960) I came across this book while reading Jess Unruh's The Plains Across. The Mormon Conflict is somewhat tangential to the Pony Express.…

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The Great Platte River Road

Merrill J. Mattes, The Great Platte River Road: The Covered Wagon Mainline via Fort Kearny to Fort Laramie (1960) From the description: The Great Platte River Road through Nebraska and Wyoming…

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The Wake of the Prairie Schooner

Irene D. Paden, The Wake of the Prairie Schooner (1944) For nine summers during the 1930s and early '40s, Paden and her husband (who was superintendent of schools in Alameda…

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The California Trail

George R. Stewart, The California Trail (McGraw Hill, 1962) This book details the story of the California Trail from 1841 to 1849. Each chapter is a year-by-year survey of the…

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The Overland Mail: 1849-1869

LeRoy Hafen, The Overland Mail: 1849-1869 (Originally published 1926) Hafen's book, which grew out of his doctoral dissertation, is the pioneering work on overland mail in the trans-Mississippi west. This…

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Wagon Roads West

W. Turentine Jackson, Wagon Roads West: A Study of Federal Surveys and Construction in the Trans-Mississippi West, 1846–1869 (University of California Press, 1952) This book is a meticulous, exhaustive study…

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The Plains Across

John D. Unruh, Jr., The Plains Across: The Overland Emigrants and the Trans-Mississippi West, 1840-60 (Univ. of Illinois, 1979) This book grew out of Unruh's doctoral dissertation, apparently ten years…

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