Saint Joseph, MO

Pony Express National Museum in St. Joseph, Missouri documents the Pony Express history of 'fast mail'

CJ Coombs
Pony Express stables in St. Joseph, Missouri.Poster photo (Aug. 2006); Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 Generic.

The Pony Express National Museum in St. Joseph, Missouri documents the history of the Pony Express which was the first method of fast mail delivery from the Missouri River to the Pacific coast. In the modern day, the National Pony Express Association (NPEA) continues to keep the memory alive of the Pony Express by performing re-rides each year. This museum is supposed to be the most complete museum of history documenting the Pony Express.

The fast mail service

While we have electronic communications replacing regular mail service today, from April 3, 1860 to October 26, 1861, Pony Express riders made the journey from Missouri to California during the Civil War to deliver mail. The Pony Express Museum located at 914 Penn Street, St. Joseph, Missouri has exhibits, maps, and artifacts that help educate people who come from all over to learn about the Pony Express.

Over 10,000 people came to the Pony Express 150th Sesquicentennial on April 1–3, 2010. That year, a re-ride of the Pony Express trail began on June 6 in San Francisco with the last rider galloping into St. Joseph, Missouri on June 26. This year, the short-lived method of mail delivery is 162 years old.

The museum is housed in a surviving portion of the Pike's Peak Stables, from which westward-bound Pony Express riders set out on their journey. (Source.)

In 2011, the museum's documentary, Days of the Pony Express, was written and produced by Jim Conlon with Scout Films which had a positive review by Wild West Magazine.

The Pony Express Stables

The Pony Express Stables in St. Joseph, Missouri are also known as Pike's Peak Stables. In 1858, it was initially a wood-frame one-story structure. In 1888, the exterior walls were reconstructed in brick. This building was the eastern terminus of the Pony Express and now houses the museum.

The stables were intended to contain the horses where they could be cared for. In 1860, it was purchased by Central Overland California and Pike's Peak Express Company to be used for the Pony Express. It is believed that the first run was accomplished by Johnson William ("Billie") Richardson (or William "Billy" Richardson) who left on April 3, 1860, carrying mochila (bag of mail) to the west. Richardson retrieved a horse from the stables and rode to the Patee House, also in St. Joseph, where he would collect the mochila.
Pony Express riders: Standing (left to right) Billy Richardson, Johnny Fry; seated (left to right) Charles Cliff and Gus Cliff.Ernest and Elaine Hartnagle, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons.

The image above is from the original tintype from the Martin E. Ismert Collection in Kansas City, Missouri.

In 1950, the Goetz Foundation restored the building creating the Pony Express National Memorial museum. In 1970, the building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Click here to learn more about the museum's exhibit known as the Hall of Riders.

Every June, the NPEA has organized the 2,000-mile re-rides of the trail from St. Joseph, Missouri to Sacramento, California for over 30 years. They have usually lasted for 10 days, but the 2010 sesquicentennial was over 20 days to honor the celebration across eight states. According to the NPEA President in Wyoming in 2010,

'We have 800 members, and about 550 of them will be riding. We have horse lovers, history buffs and a combination of the two. We alternate the direction, and this year we’ll be headed east from Sacramento to St. Joseph. It should be easier with less night rides (crazy stuff can happen at night, such as riders getting lost) and more time.' (Source.)

The below video provides a brief history of the Pony Express.

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Multi-genre writer and indie author with a BA in Eng Journalism & Creative Writing. My working career has been in law firms, and I retired early so I could be a writer all day. You could say I'm from Louisiana, Idaho, Kauai, Nebraska, South Dakota, and Missouri because I was born into the Air Force life. I love family, art, reading, history, true crime, travel, and research.

Kansas City, MO

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