1861 Xylographic Broadside Advertising the Pony Express

Pony Express. - Main View

1861 Xylographic Broadside Advertising the Pony Express


Pony Express Broadside.


Pony Express.
  1861 (undated)     29.5 x 43 in (74.93 x 109.22 cm)


This is a large and dramatic c. 1860-61 xylographic broadside promoting the Pony Express - one of just two known surviving examples. Its striking size and visual grandeur are unmatched by any other Pony Express piece with which we are aware. Moreover, with a lifespan of just 18 months, and the general mystique driving interest the Pony Express, all such promotional material is of the utmost rarity and desirability.
A Closer Look
It features a proud upright rider exhibiting a remarkably calm bearing considering the vigorously galloping horse beneath. Below are grasses and desert succulents with dramatic mountains rising in the background. The whole is evocative of rugged and lonely terrain traversed by the intrepid Pony Express riders.
Pony Express
The Pony Express, operational between April 1860 and October 1861, stands as a testament to human tenacity and innovation. Bridging St. Joseph, Missouri, and Sacramento, California, it promised revolutionary speed in mail delivery across the vast American frontier - essential given the growing if isolated population in California and the growing political tensions between the North and South. Fearless riders, battling the elements and challenging terrains, relayed messages from station to station, shrinking a once-tedious journey into roughly 10 days. The accomplishment called for the construction of nearly 200 stations, the hiring of roughly 80 crack riders, and the purchase of more than 400 fast horses. After just 18 months of operation, the Pony Express was made obsolete on October 21st, 1861, when Western Union launched the first transcontinental telegraph system. It went bankrupt days later. Although a commercial failure, the Pony Express remains cemented in the American imagination as a symbol of frontier determination, capturing the indomitable spirit of an age when every obstacle was seen as a challenge to be overcome.
Market Assessment
In terms of Pony Express ephemera, we are aware of nothing similar having come to market. We have been able to trace market data for only one other Pony Express related broadside, a much smaller text-only announcement sold by Heritage in 2007 for 22,705 USD. Other Pony Express pieces, such as the desirable but comparatively common 'Pony Express Bible' have an auction history between 20,000 and 75,000 USD. In 2009, a waybill fetched 17,925 USD. Pony Express stamps and covers are more common, regularly appearing on the market, but prove poor comparables given the general exuberance of the stamp collecting market.
Publication History and Census
This very large xylographic broadside is undated and unsigned. It was printed with 5 or 6 conjoined woodblocks on a single large sheet. We are aware of only one other example, currently on display at the Buffalo Bill Center of the West Whitney Western Art Museum. That example was donated in 1969 by William Francis Davidson (1905 - 1973), a legendary dealer in Western Americana with the Knoedler Gallery.


Very good. Some restoration, including washing and backing with archival tissue.


Buffalo Bill Center of the West Whitney Western Art Museum, #40.69.