February 14, 2009

The Pony Express National Museum - St. Joseph, MO

Not far from Jesse James home is a museum that commemorates another aspect of St. Joseph's Wild West history, the Pony Express National Museum. On April 3, 1860, the first rider left the Pony Express Stable in St. Joseph to carry saddlebags full of mail more than 2000 miles to Sacramento, California. In our digital age when I wouldn't trust the post office with anything truly important, it's hard to imagine when a guy on a horse was the height of speedy mail service. St. Joseph was a logical place to start the Pony Express. During western expansion and the gold rush, more people left from St. Joseph than any other city on the Missouri River. So the mail followed as people headed out into the frontier.

The museum is amazingly hands on and provides a wealth of historical information. You can see the first rider, Johnny Fry on horse back and the stables with fake horses preparing for their adventure. There is a fully stocked covered wagon and a multitude of maps to show the past to the west and the routes the riders took. You can also see figures of William Russell, Alexander Majors and Waddell who founded the Pony Express. In addition to the basic facts, museum also provides interesting little trivia tidbits. Check out this piece of trivia: The founders only managed to obtain half of the million dollar government contract they aimed for and ended their business bankrupt.

The museum honors the riders, the settlers who went west and also the equine adventurers. A portion of the exhibit is dedicated to the horses of the Pony Express. There are saddles you can sit on and also a place where you can interactively see which kinds of horses were used and which weren't suited for the fast, long journey westward.

The museum was interesting to visit - maybe not as thrilling as seeing Jesse James' skull cast but interesting none the less. It is definitely an educational experience.

Soundtrack: Jenny Lewis "Acid Tongue"

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