Our Own Pony Express

Editorial in the Halifax Chronicle-Herald
15 February 1999

The person who speeds over roads of the Annapolis Valley in the comfort of the family car probably never has a thought for those who, in bygone days, were subjected to the slow and wearying progress of a stage coach or who depended for their mail upon the riders of the Pony Express.

Yes, Nova Scotia once had a pony express – long before it became regular fare of the Western movies.

Nova Scotia's Pony Express was admittedly short-lived. Inaugurated in February 1849, it was displaced by telegraph systems before that year ended. Nevertheless, it played a role in the transmission of dispatches from Halifax to Victoria Beach where the communications were relayed by boat to Saint John. A plaque in the Victoria Beach area marks the western terminus.

This being the 150th anniversary year of the Pony Express, it does seem fitting that there be some recognition of the date and of the service.

It is gratifying, therefore, that Annapolis County resident Jim Fisher is pushing for just that. And one may be sure that many anticipate the re-enactment of a Pony Express trip over the old, historic route, scheduled for October.

Historical Mistake

The above editorial states that people in the Annapolis Valley
"depended for their mail upon the riders of the Pony Express"

This phrase perpetuates an unfortunate and persistent misunderstanding
of the purpose and operation of the Nova Scotia Pony Express.

The Nova Scotia Pony Express of 1849 did not carry mail.

The Nova Scotia Pony Express of 1849 did not work for the Post Office.
It received no money from the Post Office, and the Post Office was not
involved in any way with the Pony Express.

The Pony Express did not carry mail or anything else for delivery
to any point in the Annapolis Valley.

It did not carry any mail at all. (A well-known television series on Canadian
history produced a one-hour program in 2002 on Samuel Cunard, that, in the
version first released for broadcast, stated that the Nova Scotia Pony Express
carried mail to Saint John that was then "forwarded to Quebec." Not true.
The Pony Express carried no mail at all, for delivery anywhere.)

The Nova Scotia Pony Express of 1849 carried just one item on each trip,
a small package for the Associated Press of New York and Boston. This small
package contained just one document, a brief – about 3000 words – summary
of the news from England and Europe during the week immediately before the
departure each Saturday at noon from Liverpool, England, of the weekly Cunard
steamship to Halifax and Boston. When the Cunard steamship arrived at Halifax
about ten to twelve days later, the Associated Press package was hastily
transferred to the waiting Pony Express rider.

This news package was immediately carried at the hard gallop from Halifax
across Nova Scotia to Victoria Beach (not to Digby, another persistent error)
and by specially-chartered steamship across the Bay of Fundy to the new
electric telegraph office in Saint John. It was immediately telegraphed
southward to Boston and New York, where special typographers speedily set it
in type for each of about ten subscribing newspapers, collectively known as
the Associated Press of New York and Boston.

These newspapers paid for the whole operation – the expensive horses and
riders in Nova Scotia, the expensive chartered steamship across Fundy, and
the very expensive 3000-word telegram from Saint John.

No mail was carried anywhere. The newspapers wouldn't allow anything to interfere
in any way with the fastest possible delivery of the European news to New York.


More About the
Nova Scotia Pony Express

The 1849 Nova Scotia Pony Express

Photographs of the Nova Scotia Pony Express monument

The Pony Express Plaque Installed in 1949 100th Anniversary

Halifax Express The Novascotian, 26 February 1849

Halifax Express The British Colonist, 10 March 1849

Halifax Express The Acadian Recorder, 10 March 1849

The Second Run of the Nova Scotia Pony Express 8 March 1849

Nova Scotia Pony Express 1849, by John Regan 5 January 1912

Nova Scotia Pony Express 1849, by George Mullane 1 Jan 1914

Nova Scotia Pony Express 1849, by Murrille Schofield 1973

Nova Scotia Pony Express, by D. A. MacNeill April 1940

Nova Scotia Pony Express, by CBC Radio 11 June 1999

The Cunard Steamship fleet, 1849
These ships brought the news carried by the Pony Express

Burket's Exchange News Room Halifax 1848-1849

Radio Station X1J1F Victoria Beach, Nova Scotia, 1999
set up in recognition of the 150th anniversary
of the 1849 Nova Scotia Pony Express

The Oregon Boundary dispute, 1849
Britain and USA close to war – the Nova Scotia Pony Express
was the fastest link carrying breaking news to U.S.A.

The Wayback Machine has an archived copy of this document:
Our Own Pony Express
Editorial in the Halifax Chronicle-Herald, February 1999

Archived: 2003 December 31

Archived: 2004 March 27

Archived: 2004 October 15

Archived: 2005 February 12

Go To:   Nova Scotia History

Photographs of War Memorials, Historic Monuments and Plaques in Nova Scotia

Go To:   Nova Scotia Quotations

Go To:   History of Telephone Companies in Nova Scotia

Go To:   History of Railway Companies in Nova Scotia

Go To:   History of Electric Companies in Nova Scotia

Go To:   History of Automobiles in Nova Scotia

Go To:   Home Page

Counter started 01 January 2004

First uploaded to the WWW:   1999 March 30
Moved to new hosting service:   2001 November 04
Script upgraded to HTML 4.0:   2003 December 31