Smithsonianmag.com: The Pony Express Was Short-Lived And Costly
After gold was discovered in California and people rushed to the soon-to-be state, communication across the vastness of America became a pressing priority. As a result, three business men, William Russell, Alexander Majors and William Waddell, who held government contracts to deliver military supplies to the West, saw an opportunity to improve mail delivery. On April 14, 1860, the very first mail delivered via the Pony Express reached San Francisco, just 11 days after it left St. Joseph, Mo.
But the iconic riders only carried the West’s mail for 18 months and was "a financial disaster," Danielson writes. Competition from a national telegraph wire quickly made the riders outdated.
Plus, "it hemorrhaged money from the first day," author Christopher Corbett told Vox. "It was a bit of a madcap idea from the get-go ... the structure of the business was deeply flawed."