Wyeth Company of St. Joseph, Missouri, manufactured this replica of the mochila used over saddles by Pony Express riders between April 3, 1860, and October 24, 1861. Each mochila had four cantinas, or pockets, that held bundles of mail. When a rider changed horses, he quickly switched the mochila from the first horse to the second, saving precious time.
A privately-owned operation, the Pony Express was organized by William H. Russell, Alexander Majors, and William B. Waddell under the official name of the Central Overland California and Pikes Peak Express Company. Planning to prove to the Post Office Department that their service was swift and reliable, the trio hoped to obtain a lucrative postal contract similar to the $600,000 annual contract awarded in 1857 to John Butterfield of the Butterfield Overland Mail Express.
To ensure that mail travel as rapidly as possible, riders carried no more than about twenty pounds at a time. During its years of operation, the Pony Express transported about 35,000 letters between St. Joseph, Missouri, and Sacramento, California. Initially costing $5.00 per half-ounce per letter, the service was very expensive. For sending mail through the postal system to link with the Pony Express service, additional costs ensued.
Known by many at the time simply as 'The Pony', the Pony Express remains a dashing symbol of the Old West in America. Its mythic fame looms out of proportion to its importance; the service lasted less than two years, yet it remains a familiar chapter of American postal history.
Museum ID: 1986.0615.1.2