Weighing in around the same or less than today’s most renowned horse jockeys, the riders of The Pony Express barreled out of the St. Joseph, Missouri stables to reach their 75 mile per day quota. Spanning over 2,000 miles of territory with geographical and political divides permeating the dangerous landscape; the route began in St. Joseph, Missouri and finished in Sacramento, California.
Many riders came west seeking gold but found another lucrative venture in operating as couriers for Wells Fargo’s Pony Express.
William, “Billy” Pridham, the rider who was responsible for this trunk, began transporting news across the disconnected nation in 1863. Although, The Pony Express was officially discontinued in 1861 due to the construction of the transcontinental telegraph, the Wells Fargo Pony Express continued to function between Virginia City, Nevada and San Francisco, California through 1865. Pridham finally settled out west himself, making a life in Los Angelos, California successfully running a Wells Fargo office for three decades after his days on saddleback were over.
On a crisp winter day in November, the Van Witt Fine Art Team drove from the Conservation studio in Overland Park, Kansas to St. Joseph, Missouri in order to asses and obtain an original Pony Express artifact. The leather and canvas trunk had encased the written words of a burgeoning nation on the brink of a civil war. Weathering many westward journeys in the brief 18-months of operation, the strong bamboo infrastructure was enveloped in a soot-covered canvas, complete with tar and oil residue, nicotine stains and anything else that wasn't biodegradable over years of storage on a barn floor.
The enduring legend of the Pony Express and the bravery of all the riders who risked their lives In a relay effort to cover half of the country in 10 days, is a story that will live on through the Pony Express Museum. The Van Witt Fine Art Conservation team was privileged to be a part of maintaining the history of those who connected our country during an unstable era in American History.