"Sir William Drummond Stewart Meeting Indian Chief" by Alfred Jacob Miller, mid-19th century
Pony Express Day
Other Scottish Country Dances for this Day
Today's Musings, History & Folklore
"Men Wanted! The undersigned wishes to hire ten or a dozen men, familiar with the management of horses, as hostlers or riders on the Overland Express Route via Salt Lake City. Wages, $50 per month and found (room and board)." ~ advert for the Pony Express, 1860
The Pony Express, part of the mythos of the American West, was a mail service delivering messages, newspapers, and mail using relays of horse-mounted riders in the early 1860s between Missouri and California - over 1800 miles in less than 10 days! Riders would change horses about every 100 miles at up to 190 relay stations! The legendary Buffalo Bill Cody, a former Pony Express rider, capitalized on the public's interest and created traveling shows displaying cowboy themes and episodes from the frontier and Indian Wars. His Wild West show, created in 1883, toured the United States and then in 1887, Great Britain and Europe, including Scotland. During the Scottish tour, this raucous show caused an uproar in Edinburgh’s Court of Session; set a Dundee yard on fire; almost caused an Arbroath hotelier to lose his license; and wreaked havoc at the Aberdeenshire fishing market! Yee haw!
Saddle the Pony
The last Saturday or Sunday of August is Pony Express Day, marking the famous express mail service of the Wild West.
The Pony Express was a mail service delivering messages, newspapers, mail, and small packages from St. Joseph, Missouri, across the Great Plains, over the Rocky Mountains and the Sierra Nevada to Sacramento, California, all by horseback, using a series of relay stations.
During its 19 months of operation, it reduced the time for messages to travel between the Atlantic and Pacific coasts to about 10 days. From April 3, 1860 to October 1861, it became the West's most direct means of east–west communication before the telegraph was established and was vital for tying the new state of California with the rest of the United States.
The approximately 1,900-mile-long (3,100 km) route roughly followed the Oregon and California Trails to Fort Bridger in Wyoming, and then the Mormon Trail (known as the Hastings Cutoff) to Salt Lake City, Utah. From there it followed the Central Nevada Route to Carson City, Nevada before passing over the Sierra into Sacramento, California.
There were many famous Scots cowboys of the Wild West: Davey Jackson, John Colter, Jesse Chisholm, and others. For more, click here.
Some riders have passed into folklore, such as William Cody, better known as Buffalo Bill Cody. William Frederick "Buffalo Bill" Cody (February 26, 1846 – January 10, 1917) was an American scout, bison hunter, and showman, responsible for creation of the western genre mythos later adopted by the film industry.
Numerous stories have been told of young Cody's adventures as a Pony Express rider. At the age of 15 Cody was on his way west to California when he met Pony Express agents along the way and signed on with the company. He made the longest non-stop ride from Red Buttes Station to Rocky Ridge Station and back when he found that his relief rider had been killed.
The distance of 322 miles (518 km) over one of the most dangerous sections of the entire trail was completed in 21 hours and 40 minutes, and 21 horses were required to complete this section!
Buffalo Bill created traveling shows that displayed cowboy themes and episodes from the frontier and Indian Wars. He founded his Buffalo Bill's Wild West show in 1883, taking his large company on tours throughout the United States and, beginning in 1887, in Great Britain and Europe, including Scotland, during which his show caused an uproar in Edinburgh’s Court of Session, set a Dundee yard on fire, almost caused an Arbroath hotelier to lose his license, and wreaked havoc at the Aberdeenshire fishing market!
For more details of his Scottish tours (which included 29 cities in 1904), click the picture of Buffalo Bill and entourage in Scotland.