Sunday, September 2, 2012
The Longest Stage Route in the World
By Paisley Kirkpatrick On Sunday morning, October 10, 1858, an Overland Mail stagecoach dashed along the streets of San Francisco and drew up at the Plaza. At once the shrill blast of a whistle reported the arrival of the first U.S. mail -- two bags -- over the new Butterfield route, just 23 days and 20 hours out of St. Louis. This is the longest stagecoach route the world had ever known -- the official distance being given as 2757 ½ miles. En route, the average speed was less than five miles per hour, with the fastest time, seven and a half miles, made on one stretch in California. The San Franciscans were jubilant as their dream of closer connection with the East seemed to be coming true. They could hardly believe the recent dates on the newspapers they received were correct. When the coach itself, behind six sweating, snorting grays, came rattling through her streets, there were horsemen sent in advance to clear a path through the surging mob. Flags were draped from crowded windows and flying from congested rooftops while the driver nodded a response to the shrieking, whistling riot with all the dignity of a field marshal. Cannon and brass bands boomed together, 'stovepipes' crushed between tramping boots in a howling stream of color that flooded the plaza. Then a mass meeting jammed the Music Hall in honor of 'a new epoch' and 'the end of the steamship monopoly.' Up to this time, mail had reached the Pacific Coast mainly via Panama, on Pacific Mail steamers.