Three businessmen, William Russell, Alexander Majors and William Waddell came up with the idea of using horses and riders to transport mail from Missouri to California to expedite communication between the eastern and western states. This was particularly important since the Civil War was approaching. Also, people were able to get news from their families in several days instead of months or years.
In 1860, the Pony Express was born, and it ran until 1861. In the spring of 1861, Lincoln's inaugural address traveled from Missouri to California in record time: 7 days and 17 hours! It cost $5 at the time to mail 1/2 an ounce, which was very expensive. Imagine paying $50 to mail a letter today!
The horses and riders endured harsh conditions on the 11-day ride, including snow-capped mountains, packs of wolves, and stampeding buffalo. Riders were given a pistol to carry, but they were not to use it unless absolutely necessary. Horses would be switched every 10 to 15 miles, and riders were switched once per day. Riders stayed at stop-over stations, and they helped with the chores when they were not riding.
Off Like the Wind: the First Ride of the Pony Express by Michael Spradlin, 2010
I like the energy and sense of urgency that is apparent in the illustrations. Of course, I love horses, so this book was definitely for me!