September 9, 1850

Gold and Mail California Style

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The 33-cent California Gold Rush stamp was issued June 18, 1999.

It isn’t just the gold that glitters in California’s history, but that’s what first conjured up this state’s reputation of glamour and danger and it proved to be irresistible. After the discovery of gold at Sutter’s Mill in 1848, half a million people packed up their bags and headed West in pursuit of the fantastic wealth that was begging to be discovered.

Pony Express route map
The Pony Express Route from April 3, 1860 to October 24, 1861. W.H. Jackson map, issued by the American Pioneer Trails Association in commemoration of the Pony Express Centennial from April 3, 1960 to October 24, 1961. The route shows names and locations of relay stations of the Pony Express.
Courtesy of the Geography and Map Division, Library of Congress.

Twelve years later, the Pony Express came into being as the Post Office Department sought out a faster means of mail delivery from east to west, a need that became increasingly urgent as California welcomed its new migrant population. The riders were employed through a contract with a private company, but they carried official US mail in their saddlebags over 2000 miles of largely unsettled land to their final destination in Sacramento.