The old trails that led to the far west are now buried beneath the cinder beds of the railroads. The names of the deeply-rutted
roads of the mule teams and the stagecoaches have passed into history. But before this happened, and before the greatest railroad
system in the world spanned North-America, one of the most glamorous and colorful pages of history was written. It is the story
of the Pony express. At the time of the civil war, there was a railroad that crawled from the Eastern Seaboard to a western
terminus at St. Joseph, Missouri. From this point, mule-drawn freight caravans and lumbering stagecoaches carried passengers and
mail on to the West Coast. They set out over the trails leading to Salt Lake City, Utah; Santa Fe, New Mexico; Sacramento, California;
and to the state of Oregon.
The trails led over burning deserts, lonely plain, and snowcapped mountains. There were not friendly towns along the way for the travelers
to stop at. Hostile indians, outlaws, heat, theft, and violent storms were hazards of western travel before the railroads were extended to the
far West. The mail sometimes took weeks in transit. When California came into the Union in 1850, settlers and miners in that state complained
about the slowness of the mail. The new Californians were easteners and midwesteners who had rushed to California when gold were
discovered there in 1849. They were used to the improved communications of the eastern part of the country and they felt far away
from it. They wanted to know what was going on in the East, where they had come from, and they were specially interested in events
in Washington. What, for example, was president Buchanan saying?, and how about that new man Abraham Lincoln?. As the civil
war threatened, they wanted to make up their minds which side to take. They were hungry for news.
Federal subsidies for carrying the mail were very small and congress did not want to pay the cost of running a special mail service to the
West. The distance from st. Joseph, Missouri, to California, was almost 2,000 miles and congress felt that the cost of a mail service
would be exorbitant. While this matter was being talked about in congress and throughout the country, an express company inserted
the following advertisement in a march, 1860 issue, of a San Francisco newspaper:
The story of the Pony express is a story of extraordinary daring and courage in the face of great hardships and obstacles. Many books
have been written and motion pictures made about these brave young riders in the wind, who sped the mails from St. Joseph, Missouri,
to the West coast. Man and horse were one as they dashed from one relay station to the next carrying the mochila or locked mailbag.
At the relay station the rider had a short rest until another rider came in from the West with mail going to St. Joseph. Sometimes, the
riders found the relay station in ruins from indian raids, and no fresh horses to continue the ride. But rider and tired horse staggered on
to the next station. They never turned back. The mail went through.
The most amazing activity of the Pony expresssoccurred when copies of Lincoln's inaugural address were carried from
St. Joseph to San Francisco in seven days and seventeen hours. As a result of reading Lincoln's address, California decided to join the
North in the war between the States. From 1860 to the fall of 1861, these "Paul Reveres" of the 19th century flew across plains and
montains on their swift horses. The Express did not die of old age. It passed away in its prime when telegraph wires were strung from the
coast across the Sierra Mountains preparatory to the construction of the trans-continental railroad. When the "golden spike" completing the
railroad that joined East and West was driven into the ground, the Pony Express passed into history.
The man who invented the telegraph, unlike many inventors of his time, had the advantage of a fine education at Phillips Exeter Academy
and Yale University from which he graduated in 1810. Although it was not until 1861 that Yale established a school for graduate work
in science, Samuel Morse learned all he could about chemistry, physics, and electricity from the lectures he attended and the books
he readed. An experiment of his chemistry professor started him on the idea of developing electrical communications. First, however,
he became an artist.
If Samuiel Morse had not become interested in telegraphy, he would have been famous as an artist. He had a natural talent for painting
and studied under great English artists of the day. As an artist, and later as professor of art at New York City University, he was
able to make a successful living for himself. Although he received wide recognition in his own time, his painting has been even more
highly acclaimed in recent years. In 1829, the artist morse traveled to Europe to study great historical painting. Three years later, Morse
the inventor returned to New York. It was on the ship that carried him home that he coceived the idea of the telegraph. Fresh in his
mind were recent experiments with electricity and magnetism that he had learned of in Europe.
For several years Morse strugled with his invention, finally building a model that carried dot-and-dash coded messages a distance of
1700 feet. He had by this time given up art to devote all of his time to perfecting the telegraph. No longer earning money. Morse
desperately needed financial help to continue his work. He plead to Congress for money, in 1837, was made at a bad time. The
country had just suffered a financial panic and Congress would not consider making the appropriation. It was not until 1843 that
a bill granting Morse $30,000 to construct a test line between Washington and Baltimore was introduced in Congress. Morse spent
his last dollar to go to Washington to try to get the bill passed. On the final day of Congress, the inventor sat alone, tired and discouraged,
in the gallery of the Senate. The evening dragged on and finally one of the friendly senators told Morse that his cause looked hopeless.
The inventor left and went to bed. He had done all he could, and he had failed. The following morning Morse went to breakfast with a
ticket to New York and thirty-seven cents left in his pockets. On the way, he was greeted by the daughter of an old friend, who
congratulated him. "For what?" he asked. "On a passage of your bill," said miss Ellsworth. The bill had been passed at midnight.
But Morse's troubles were not over yet. He spent $20,000 laying only a few miles of underground cable to Baltimore before discovering
that the wire was faulty. Another line was quickly run, this time strung overhead between poles and trees. The first message, chose by
Miss Ellworth, the young lady who had brought him the news about Congress passing his bill, was sent in may, 1844. The message
was "What had God brought?". Morse was afraid of the power that private ownership of the telegraph would give people by enabling
them to change or withhold news. But when the government refused to purchase his invention, he set up the first telegraph company, with
line between New York and Philadelphia.
The telegraph was an immediate success. Within a decade a network of telegraph lines covered the U.S. Hundreds of telegraph companies
were formed and later joined to become the The Western Union Telegraph company. In 1866, a cable beneath the ocean
conneted North-America to England by telegraph. News that had taken weeks to cross oceans or continents was now read in newspaper
thousands of miles away within hours of its happening. Samuel Morse became famous and wealthy. Honors were showered upon him by
the governments of the world. In 1900, he was among the first to be elected to the American Hall of Fame as honor no man had achieved
through greater perseverance.