Express Delivery

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The beautiful pictographic map by the artist William Henry Jackson seen in this article shows the first United States of America Pony Express mail delivery route, a distance of 1,800 miles, from St. Joseph, Missouri to Sacramento, California. It has an inscription by author Howard Roscoe Driggs which reads:

“Over this historic route daring young Americans on fleet horses sped night and day while other courageous men kept and supplied the stations along the far-flung, dangerous line. This pioneer fast mail service, maintained despite serious loss to its patriotic promoters, made a notable contribution to our national welfare. The Pony Express, following the direct northern route, brought our far west closer to our east, thereby helping to hold our frontier territory with its treasures of gold in our union. It blazed the way for the overland stage to California, hastened the building of the first transcontinental railroad and telegraph and added one of the most stirring chapters to the history of America’s making.”

The United States has issued commemorative stamps recognising the first Pony Express cross-continent mail service. In 1940 the stamp shown below was released to celebrate the 80th anniversary of that first journey. Although the service was only in operation for 18 months between April 1860 and October 1861, the Pony Express has become synonymous with the Wild West.

Below, from 1960 a one-hundred year commemorative.

However, the sending of messages by other forms was already in existence and a New York University professor, Samuel Morse, began working on his version of the telegraph system in 1832. He developed Morse Code (a set of sounds that corresponded to particular letters of the alphabet) in 1835, and by 1838 he had presented his concept to the U.S. Congress. He was not the first to think of the idea – 62 people had claimed to invent the first electrical telegraph by 1838 – but Morse beat everyone else by being the first to get political backing for his telegraph and a business model for making it work.

In 1843, Morse built a telegraph system from Washington, D.C., to Baltimore with the financial support of Congress. On May 24, 1844, the first message, “What hath God wrought?” was sent. The telegraph system progressed slowly, and many attempts failed to make the system work for the entire country – hence the need for a delivery service such as the Pony Express.

Above is a U.S. first day cover envelopes with stamp from 1944, commemorating the first telegraphic message sent in America and depict Samuel Morse his Morse Code machine.

Morse slowly continued to spread his invention and he extended the telegraph line to New York. At the same time, other companies began taking notice of the impact of the telegraph and they opened their own systems in other parts of the country. Western Union built its first transcontinental telegraph line in 1861.

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