This Day in History
Early Morn, Late Start

On a day like today in the 1850’s...

America was born of immigration and the American empire, with its limitless expanse of open land, invited further immigration. From the beginning, mobility has been perhaps the deepest characteristic of the American people; we have always been “on the go,” and we still are. No wonder travel and transportation have loomed large in our history and our imagination; Indian trails, the Wilderness Road, the Cumberland gap, the Conestoga Wagon, the Claremont, the flatboat, the Erie Canal, the clipper ship, the Mississippi steamboat, the Santa Fe Trail, the Oregon Trail, the pony express, the stagecoach.

The problem of inland transportation took on new urgency when settlement leaped the 1500-mile barrier from the Mississippi to the Pacific in the 1840s and 1850s. Transportation around the Straits of Magellan or across the Isthmus of Panama was long and costly. There had to be some quicker way. Within a quarter century the railroads were to meet this challenge. Meanwhile, connection between the Mississippi - Missouri frontier and the West depended on the pony express and the stagecoach.

As early as 1857, the government contracted with John Butterfield to deliver mail to the mountain west and the Pacific coast via El Paso, Texas and Yuma in Arizona. Proponents for a more direct route through Salt Lake City set up a rival express, which, under the control of that Napoleon of the Mountains, Ben Halladay, inaugurated a pony express that provided service twice a week to Salt Lake City and San Francisco. Meanwhile, beginning at the same time, the Overland Stage, with one hundred Concord coaches, 800 drivers, and 1500 horses, provided weekly service from St. Louis to San Francisco in only twenty-five days, and at a cost of one hundred dollars - rather less than it costs today for a four-hour flight.

May's Archived Features:

Wednesday May 1, 2019
Thursday May 2, 2019
Friday May 3, 2019
Saturday May 4, 2019
Sunday May 5, 2019
Monday May 6, 2019
Tuesday May 7, 2019
Wednesday May 8, 2019
Thursday May 9, 2019
Friday May 10, 2019
Saturday May 11, 2019
Sunday May 12, 2019
Monday May 13, 2019
Tuesday May 14, 2019
Wednesday May 15, 2019
Thursday May 16, 2019
Friday May 17, 2019
Saturday May 18, 2019
Sunday May 19, 2019
Monday May 20, 2019
Tuesday May 21, 2019
Wednesday May 22, 2019
Thursday May 23, 2019



All illustrations by Mort Künstler. Text by Michael Aubrecht, Dee Brown, Henry Steele Commager, Rod Gragg, Mort Künstler, Edward Lengel, James McPherson, and James I. Robertson, Jr. - Copyright © 2001-2019. All Rights Reserved. No part of the contents of this web site may be reproduced or utilized in any form by any means without written consent of the artist.