The Pony Express

Contributor: Samantha Penna. Lesson ID: 12046

Do you ever get email messages? Can you pick up your mail at a nearby mailbox or through a door slot? How does it get there? How was mail delivered before computers and mail trucks? Saddle up and see!


Social Studies

Social Studies
learning style
personality style
Grade Level
Primary (K-2)
Lesson Type
Quick Query

Lesson Plan - Get It!

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  • How do you get your mail?
  • Is it delivered by horse?

Years ago, the United States of America was expanding its territory into the west.

On September 9th, 1850, California became a part of the United States. This became a problem for the United States because they could not communicate with California without a good mailing system.

Ten years later, on April 3rd, 1860, the Pony Express began!

Pony Express stamp

The Pony Express was a mail system that transported mail from Missouri to the western side where California was located. This new system allowed mail to get to California much faster than it would if it were transported by horse carriage.

The Pony Express allowed individual horse riders to bring bags of mail to California.

The first rider set off on his journey from Missouri to California on April 3rd, 1860. All the riders traveled from Missouri, through Nebraska, Wyoming, Utah, and Nevada, finally ending up in California.


The route to California was almost two thousand miles long! It had one-hundred-and-eighty-four stations along the way for the riders to stop at.

Each station they arrived at would have new horses for the riders to travel on. This allowed the other horses to rest instead of traveling miles and miles to California.

The riders would switch out, too. Every one-hundred miles, the riders would stop at a station and pass their mail on to a new rider. This allowed the riders to get some good rest, too.

Frank E. Weber, pony express rider

The journey was not an easy one! Riders had no protection from dangerous people, animals, or the weather. They rode whether it was raining, snowing, or even one-hundred degrees outside!

During their journey, they would travel through the Rocky Mountains. Sometimes, the mountain would still have snow on it, making it dangerous to pass through. In order to be a rider, you would have to be brave and strong to make the dangerous journey.

  • Do you think you could be a Pony Express rider? Why or why not?
  • What do you think is the most dangerous part of the job?

Move on to the Got It? section to read a story about the Pony Express.

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