Spectacular, but brief, is perhaps the best way to describe the Pony Express of 1860-1861. The express firm of Russell, Majors, and Waddell wanted to win a government contract and promised to carry letters the nearly 3,200 miles between St. Joseph, MO, and Sacramento, CA, in 10 days. This was half the time taken by the Overland Mail Company, which followed a longer route through the Southwest. Some 190 way stations, 10 to 15 miles apart, were built along a route through Nebraska, Wyoming, and Nevada.
Riders traveled 75 miles each in a relay system. Mail was carried at five dollars an ounce, delivering even through the winter months. The experiment was logically sound, but a financial failure. The firm went bankrupt, and Pony Express service ended after 18 months in October 1861, when overland telegraph connections were completed.