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Photo of Patee House hotel
Patee House, a hotel in 1860, when it served as headquarters for the Pony Express

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Pony Express
A Local Legacy

Nowadays, it takes only a few days for a letter to travel from coast to coast, and you can send an e-mail in seconds. But in the mid-19th century, it took six months for a letter to travel from Washington, D.C., to California!

As the United States expanded to the West Coast, communication became very important to the success of the nation and its Western pioneers. The country needed a speedy way to send messages. As a result, the Pony Express was born.

In April 1860, 75 young men were hired and 100 horses were purchased to carry mail on horseback from Pony Express headquarters in the Patee House hotel, in St. Joseph, Missouri, to California. The cost to have the Pony Express carry one letter, which took 10 days, from Missouri to California was $5. Today, that $5 is worth about $90! Can you imagine spending $90 to send a letter?

By October 1861, however, the Pony Express was extinct. The telegraph could send messages much cheaper and faster, and, by 1869, railroads stretched from coast to coast. Today, you can visit the Patee House, which is now a museum dedicated to the history of the Pony Express. The building is a National Historic Landmark.

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