(from the California
The Saga of the Pony Express
By Joseph J. Di Certo
Mountain Press Publishing Company, Missoula, MT, 2002, 244 pages, paperback,
Reviewed by Tom Crews
Pony Express Historian, Contra Costa County Historical Society
The Pony Express was in service from April 1860 to October 1861. Although in
action for only 18 months when the completion of the transcontinental
telegraph ended its operations, the Pony Express was of great historical
significance. The Pony Express proved to the eastern establishment that the
Central Route could be used by the railroads to bind our country together.
In less than a decade the Central Pacific and the Union Pacific rails would
meet at Promontory, Utah to form the Nationís first transcontinental
railroad. The 10-day delivery time of the Pony Express was a revolution in
its day bringing political and social news to a hungry readership.
The Pony Express can also
be credited with keeping California in the Union during the dark days
preceding the Civil War when there was a real threat that California would
side with the Confederacy. Because of the rapid communication afforded the
military and the timely delivery of news of early Union victories,
California and its gold stayed in the Union.
Over the years the number
of books written about the Pony Express has continued to grow with some 195
books at last count. The Saga of the Pony Express, by Joseph J. Di Certo, is
the latest of these relating the history, legend and lore of this most
remarkable venture. Di Certo covers all the requisite areas of historical
interest: the founders, the route, the stations, the riders, the historical
significance and the financial problems.
Di Certo presents a clear
picture of the Western expansion of the United States and the importance of
prompt and reliable communication with the people who populated this new
land, and as the Nation headed toward Civil War how the lines of
communication became even more important. The West was also plagued with
much unrest between the Native Americans and the new settlers from the East.
He has taken steps beyond just a recitation of known facts and fiction and
has gone to great lengths to place the Pony Express within the historical
context of the turbulent events of the mid-19th century.
While the Pony Express
was a great contribution to the communications of the time, it was also a
financial disaster to its founders and investors. Di Certo goes to some
length to explain clearly the tangled financial web in which the service
found itself. As Di Certo relates many of the rides and adventures of the
Pony Riders, the reader can well understand and relive the dangers and
hardships that these young men found themselves caught in.
I found this to be an
easy reading book with many new insights to the history of the time that
kept my interest throughout its length. The book has quite a number of
historical photographs, many not seen before. I would recommend this book to
any who are interested in this most adventurous time.