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.
Communication was slow and very irregular; in fact, six weeks passed before Californians received the glad news that their state had been admitted into the Union on September 9, 1850.
January-February, 1956 issue of True West, Posted by M. R. Krythe


  1. Another good lesson in history. I always love a story with a stagecoach--they had a romantic aura around them and the drivers--and especially the passengers.
    It's difficult to believe that this story is true in our day and time, with instant messaging from anyplace in the world. Wouldn't those pioneers be astounded? Well, I still am.
    I saw a cartoon this morning--a history professor in front of a blackboard, pointing to a crude drawing of a newspaper--he says as he points, "This is a newspaper..."
    Thanks..well done.

  2. Paisley, I'm so glad you write such good posts. For my next book, I need how fast a stagecoach traveled, and here you have solved that problem for me. Thanks for the research and the interesting article.

  3. Thanks Celia. I often think of conversations I used to have with my father. His generation saw such a change in the world from the radio to the moon and all the stuff we take advantage of now that his generation didn't have. We have had the pony express rider re-visited around here in the past. I guess complaining about our letters taking so long these days shouldn't be taken seriously.

  4. I might have more stagecoach info around here, Caroline. Let me know if you need to see what they look like and such. I love to watch them in the re-enactment of when they were the way to travel.

  5. Thanks, Paty. I thought it was rather interesting at how fast they traveled in those days. It would never work these days, would it?

  6. Paisley, what a strong reminder of how important communication has always been even though we take it for granted today. I love how you showed the San Franciscans' excitement. A grand event!

  7. Jacquie, how nice to have you visit. I certainly agree and now that we have it at our fingertip, we have a tendency to forget the trials it took to communicate before computers and cell phones.

  8. What a marvelous tidbit of history. Thanks, Paisley!

  9. Hi Tanya. It does make me appreciate my mail a bit more and gives me more patience with my mail carrier, especially with all my overseas letters.


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