The Founders

Russell, Majors, Waddell To meet the demands for a more dependable form of communication with the west, the stage and freight company of Russell, Majors, and Waddell proposed a mail relay service between St. Joseph, Missouri, and Sacramento, California. Historians disagree on who had the first idea for a western Pony Express. However, it was William H. Russell, in conferences in Washington, D.C. in early 1860 with California's U. S. Senator William Gwen, then Chairman of the Senate Post Office and Post Roads Committee, who was responsible for putting the Pony Express into operation.

On January 27, 1860, Russell dramatically wired his Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, office that he had resolved to start the Pony Express -- "time: 10 days."

Preparation for the mammoth undertaking was a masterpiece of organization. Light, tough, young men were hired to ride the best horses money could buy. The horses would belong-legged and fast for the prairies. Smaller but extraordinarily tough animals of California stock would be used for the rough mountains and deserts. New stagecoach stations were built, and existing ones readied for use. The Central Overland California and Pike's Peak Express company was formed for Pony Express operations.

In 1860, Russell, Majors, and Waddell formed the Central Overland California & Pikes Peak Express (the Pony Express) to show that mail could be carried year round over the Central Route to California. Once that was proved, government subsidies would be forthcoming, ensuring success of the venture. While the Pony Express was successful in delivering the mail in record time, Russell, Majors and Waddell lost out to Alexander Butterfield for the mail contract.

Although the Pony Express was an efficient mail service, it failed as a profitable enterprise. It is not know exactly how much the service cost Russell, but during its operation the company only grossed $90,141, or about the cost of purchasing horses for the service. By all accounts the Pony Express had lost $200,000 by the time it closed operations.

Source: Settle and Settle, War Drums and Wagon Wheels.

William H. Russell
Alexander Majors
William B. Waddell

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