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Quiz about The Fastest Mail in the West
Quiz about The Fastest Mail in the West

The Fastest Mail in the West Trivia Quiz


The Pony Express service revolutionized mail delivery in 19th century America. Well, maybe not quite as much as the stories might lead you to believe. But they were spectacularly fast for the time!

A multiple-choice quiz by looney_tunes. Estimated time: 4 mins.
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Author
looney_tunes
Time
4 mins
Type
Multiple Choice
Quiz #
392,790
Updated
Dec 03 21
# Qns
10
Difficulty
Average
Avg Score
7 / 10
Plays
575
Awards
Top 10% Quiz
Last 3 plays: Guest 174 (3/10), Guest 205 (7/10), Guest 188 (4/10).
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Question 1 of 10
1. What event, which began in 1848, led to an increased need for rapid transcontinental mail delivery? Hint


Question 2 of 10
2. Between what two cities did the Pony Express operate? Hint


Question 3 of 10
3. How long did the Pony Express riders take to complete a mail delivery from one terminus to the other? Hint


Question 4 of 10
4. The first westbound trip of the Pony Express set off, with much fanfare, on 3 April, 1860. On what date in 1860 did the first eastbound trip depart? Hint


Question 5 of 10
5. Given the rough terrain, and the conflicts regularly occurring in the region, it is not surprising that the Pony Express did not always deliver the mail exactly on time. What was the longest delay for a mail pouch delivery? Hint


Question 6 of 10
6. What was the Pony Express mochila? Hint


Question 7 of 10
7. Which of these is the best description of the average Pony Express rider? Hint


Question 8 of 10
8. Which of these men is generally considered to be most responsible for the popular image of the Pony Express? Hint


Question 9 of 10
9. The Pony Express ceased operations on 26 October 1861, two days after which of these events? Hint


Question 10 of 10
10. What stagecoach company used the Pony Express logo on their mail coaches between 1866 and 1869? Hint



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Quiz Answer Key and Fun Facts
1. What event, which began in 1848, led to an increased need for rapid transcontinental mail delivery?

Answer: California gold rush

The discovery of gold at Sutter's Mill in January of 1848 led to a dramatic influx of people. By 1860, the population of California had gone from around 75,000 residents to nearly 400,000. California became a state in 1850, and effective statehood required faster communication than was then available. Ships from California had to travel all the way down to the southern tip of South America, around Cape Horn, and back up through the Atlantic. Overland travel, even by dedicated coaches, took the best part of a month to get from one side of the country to the other.

The imminence of the American Civil War, and the consequent unsettled political atmosphere, also increased the urgency of establishing an efficient communication system.
2. Between what two cities did the Pony Express operate?

Answer: St. Joseph MO and Sacramento CA

There was already telegraphic, riverboat and railroad connection from the east coast to the Missouri River, so it was there that the horses came into their own, crossing the rest of the country much more quickly than was possible for a stagecoach. From Sacramento, river travel could carry goods to San Francisco (at that time the major city of California), so that was chosen as the western terminus of the route.

The Pony Express Trail (travelling east to west) left St Joseph by crossing the Missouri River, and then following the path of the California and Oregon trails to Wyoming. From Fort Bridger, it followed the branch that was called the Mormon Trail to Salt Lake City; next it used the Central Nevada Route to Carson City NV before crossing the Sierra Nevada range near Lake Tahoe, before reaching the destination at Sacramento.
3. How long did the Pony Express riders take to complete a mail delivery from one terminus to the other?

Answer: Ten days

While there were times when circumstances caused some delay, most trips were completed in ten days. Given that the trip covered about 1900 miles, that amounts to an average speed of approximately 8 mph. While that is not terribly impressive of itself (a cantering horse travels about 10 mph), it had to be maintained over uneven terrain, day and night.

In order to make it possible, the route was divided into stages, with stations at regular intervals (5 to 25 miles apart, depending on the terrain) so that riders could change horses and keep moving on a fresh horse.

A rider would typically cover 75 to 100 miles in their day's riding, before handing off the mail to another rider. The stops for changing horses were usually quite small, and were referred to as swing stations.

The ones where riders changed places, called home stations, were somewhat larger, and provided accommodation for the riders resting there before picking up another ride. All told, there were 184 stations, organised into five divisions.

The business started with 120 riders and 400 horses, along with the personnel needed to man the stations and care for the horses and riders.
4. The first westbound trip of the Pony Express set off, with much fanfare, on 3 April, 1860. On what date in 1860 did the first eastbound trip depart?

Answer: 3 April

The first trip to depart from St Joseph left after speeches from the mayor and two of the three founders of the company, at around 7:15pm. The identity of the first rider is disputed - the local paper said it was Johnson William Richardson, but other sources name Johnny Fry. Whoever it was, he rode about half a mile from the stables before taking the ferry across the Missouri River. Later riders carried the mail pouch across on the ferry before mounting and starting their ride.

The eastbound trip involved much less ballyhoo, but was just as essential for the success of the enterprise. The first carrier is usually designated as James Randall, who carried the first pouch from San Francisco to Sacramento. There he handed it to William (Sam) Hamilton, who set off on horseback for St. Joseph.

Both trips were completed in the hoped-for ten days, arriving at their respective destinations on 14 April, ten days after the start.
5. Given the rough terrain, and the conflicts regularly occurring in the region, it is not surprising that the Pony Express did not always deliver the mail exactly on time. What was the longest delay for a mail pouch delivery?

Answer: nearly two years

The Paiute War, which took place between May and June of 1860, caused disruption of services, with deliveries being suspended after the first eight successful runs. Most of the deliveries were only delayed by a matter of weeks, but the package that left Sacramento on 21 June went seriously astray, and did not reach St. Joseph until 1862, after the Pony Express had closed!
6. What was the Pony Express mochila?

Answer: the pouch that held the mail

Traditional bags, attached to the saddle, took too long to untie and transfer, so a mochila (Spanish for flap) was used. This was a rectangular piece of leather with holes cut so that it slipped over the specially-designed lightweight saddle, with the horn (at the front) and the cantle (the back of the seat) emerging through the holes so that the mochila could lie flat on the horse's back.

There were four flat leather compartments at the bottom of the mochila, one in each corner as it hung in place.

These pockets, called cantinas, held the mail, and were thoroughly sealed and padlocked for security.
7. Which of these is the best description of the average Pony Express rider?

Answer: a teenaged boy

It is widely reported that a typical advertisement used to recruit riders read, "Wanted: Young, skinny, wiry fellows not over eighteen. Must be expert riders, willing to risk death daily." The additional statement, "Orphans preferred", is almost certainly apocryphal.

While older riders were employed, they all had to meet the requirement of weighing no more than 125 pounds. With the 20 pounds of mail, and the 20 pounds of the other equipment carried by the rider, this gave a total weight of 165 pounds for the horses to carry. The standard equipment of a Pony Express rider included: a special-edition Bible, a horn to alert stations of their imminent arrival, a rifle, a Colt revolver, ammunition for the two weapons, and a water sack.
8. Which of these men is generally considered to be most responsible for the popular image of the Pony Express?

Answer: Buffalo Bill Cody

In an 1879 autobiography, William Frederick Cody claimed to have been a rider, but the accuracy of this assertion has been disputed. It is hard to know for sure, because there was no accurate list of riders kept. What is certain is that Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show, which involved dramatizations of the exploits of Pony Express riders, created the legend that is most familiar around the world.
9. The Pony Express ceased operations on 26 October 1861, two days after which of these events?

Answer: completion of the transcontinental telegraph

The incorrect options all happened at different times: the American Civil War had started in May of 1861; the transcontinental railway was completed in May of 1869; the Panama Canal didn't open until August of 1914. When the transcontinental telegraph finally had a complete connection from coast to coast, it was the last straw for a business that, however much it has been romanticized, was a financial failure. The expense of setting up and maintaining the stations and the necessary supply of horses (not to mention paying the riders roughly three times the average daily wage at the time) was far more than they could recoup from their mail. At least in part, this was because it cost so much that average people simply couldn't afford it. With the telegraph providing virtually immediate transmission of information (or at least, next day if you went for the overnight rate), ten day delivery of letters lost its significance.

During the 18 1/2 months of its operation, the Pony Express delivered around 35,000 letters.
10. What stagecoach company used the Pony Express logo on their mail coaches between 1866 and 1869?

Answer: Wells Fargo

The Wells Fargo company was established in San Francisco in 1848, providing banking and freight transport services to those who were thronging to California. In 1855 they expanded into mail services, setting up their own fleet of stagecoaches (primarily those designed by Abbot Downing, whose Concord stagecoach revolutionized cross-country travel).

In 1866 they acquired Butterfield Overland Mail and Holladay Overland Stage, and gained a monopoly on all mail traffic west of the Missouri River, as well as having multiple stagecoach lines for transporting passengers and freight.
Source: Author looney_tunes

This quiz was reviewed by FunTrivia editor bloomsby before going online.
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