(An excerpt from Make Others Greater)
William H. Russell knew he was on to something. He had the competitive advantage he needed to become the go-to communications solution of the day. He’d built a system that could cut the time it took to deliver mail by as much as 60%.
He quickly needed to staff up his company, so he ran the following ad, “Wanted: Young, skinny, wiry fellows not over 18. Must be expert riders, willing to risk death daily. Orphans preferred. Wages: $25 per week.”
Applicants swarmed the company’s way stations that were placed approximately 15 miles apart and spanning the distance between Missouri and California.
Though it wasn’t cheap, the Pony Express was the expedient answer to getting important mail across country faster.
By stagecoach it took 24 days from door to door, Missouri to Sacramento. In 1860, The Pony Express did it in 7 ½ days.
Russell had cornered the market…but only for just over one year. In 1861 the transcontinental telegraph was completed and on October 26, 1861 the Pony Express closed its doors[i].
The year prior, another budding entrepreneur put his novel idea to the test. John Wise believed that ground travel severely constrained the delivery of mail. He would take to the air instead.
On August 17, 1859, the hot air balloon Jupiter took to the skies. It departed Lafayette, Indiana with 123 letters destined for New York City.
A stiff wind blew it south once it reached the necessary 14,000 feet in elevation. Five hours later, having travelled only 30 miles, it reached Crawfordsville, Indiana. There Mr. Wise gave all 123 letters to the nearest postal agent he could find – who put them on the next train bound for NYC.
Ninety-four years later the last letter was […]