The Original Pony Express

(Barry’s Note: While studying Esther 8, I came across some interesting information about the postal system in the ancient Persian empire & our postal system today.  The information below about the Pony Express is from Stephen Davey and the reference to Herodotus & the origin of the Post Office slogan is  from Wikipedia & other sources).

In 1860, three businessmen organized what they called the Pony Express, which they intended to be a fast mail service between St. Joseph, Missouri & Sacramento, California. They made the unbelievable promise to customers that they could deliver mail out West in only 10 days.  They used the 1860 presidential election as a platform to nationally reveal just how industrious they could be.  On November 7, 1860, relay riders & fresh horses were readied & the first Pony Express rider left the Nebraska Territory.  Only 7 days & 17 hours later, the rider delivered to California newspapers the news that Abraham Lincoln had been elected President.

This got The Pony Express on its feet.  Soon the Pony Express involved 120 riders, 400 horses & several hundred personnel.  It needed a lot of man & horse power to ensure that the mail could be delivered so speedily, so each rider typically rode 175 miles a day & changed his horse every 10 miles at Pony Express relay stations. The riders were required to weigh no more than 125 pounds.  They never stopped to eat or drink.

The real pony express, however, wasn’t started by cowboys & businessmen in the 1800’s. It was started by the ancient Persians.  The Greek historian Herodotus records that the Persian Empire was connected by Postal stations every 14 miles.   Herodotus comments: “Nothing stops these couriers from covering their allotted stages in the quickest possible time – neither snow, rain, heat, nor darkness.” (Book 8, paragraph 98 of the Persian Wars by Herodotus).                         

What many people don’t know is the origin of a phrase that is used with regard to the post office.  The firm of McKim, Mead & White designed the New York Post Office which opened in 1914.  One of the firm’s architects, William Mitchel Kendall, was the son of a classics scholar & read Greek for pleasure.  He selected & modified Herodotus’ quote and the Post Office approved it:

Chiseled in gray granite over the entrance to the New York City Post Office on 8th Avenue are these words: “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.”  

(Barry’s Comments:  Why was a efficient, fast service so important in Esther 8?  Because Haman sent a decree by the Persian postal system that the Persians were to exterminate the Jews as a race.  The decree of Esther & Mordecai, which Xerxes approved, was to counterbalance Haman’s decree & give the Jews the right to defend themselves.  Gal.4:4 talks about in the “fullness of times”.  In other words, when God had all details worked out…Roman roads by which the gospel could be spread, a common language, Rome’s tolerance of different religious beliefs, etc., then God sent His Son.  It’s fascinating to see God’s providence working out His eternal purposes.  Without God’s rescue of the Jews in the time of Esther, there would have been no seed of Abraham from which to bring forth a Savior.  Marvel with me at the great preparations God made by His providence so that everything worked out just as He intended & we can be His children today.)