Kuiper takes the Frontier Pledge at the Pony Express Station in Gothenburg, Nebraska.
“I do hereby swear, before the Great and Living God, that during my engagement, and while an employee of Russell, Majors and Waddell, I will, under no circumstances, use profane language, that I will drink no intoxicating liquors, that I will not quarrel or fight with any other employee of the firm, and that in every respect I will conduct myself honestly, be faithful to my duties, and so direct all my acts as to win the confidence of my employers, so help me God.” Pony Express Oath, 1861
Did you know that the #PonyExpress was only in business from April 1860 to October 1861? The privately-owned service operated like a giant relay race on horseback, all the way from St. Joseph, MO to Sacramento, CA. When it opened, it cost $260 in today’s money to send a 1 oz letter. Most of the ferried correspondence was conducted on tissue paper.
Mail delivery posted a lot of challenges in that era. Bandits and bad weather were ever-present threats. It could take months to get a letter from MO to CA. The Pony Express wasn’t the only creative solution; in 1855 Jefferson Davis managed to persuade Congress to spend $30k to import camels “for military and other purposes.” Unfortunately, the start of the Civil War put the kibosh on the United States Camel Corps.
The Pony Express founders had hoped to win a contract from the #uspostalservice for #speedydelivery, but it was not to be. Although their service was 2x as fast as their stagecoach competitors, it was a complete financial failure. The company lost over $200k over its lifespan. More importantly, 10 weeks after they opened for business, Congress approved a plan to create a subsidized transcontinental telegraph line.
It’s also unclear that the Oath was taken very seriously. Richard Francis Burton wrote, “Results: I scarely ever saw a sober driver; as for profanity – the Western equivalent of hard swearing – they would make the blush of shame crimson the cheek of the old Isis bargee; and, rare exceptions to the rule of the United States, they are not to be deterred from evil talking even by dread presence of a ‘lady.'”
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