SOCIAL STUDIES FACT CARDS
CALIFORNIA HISTORY BY DECADES
Copyright © by Toucan Valley Publications, Inc. | Source Citation

1860s


First Pony Express mail arrived in Sacramento


The Pony Express officially began to operate on April 3, 1860, when the first rider left St. Joseph, Missouri, for Sacramento, California. The Central Overland California and Pikeís Peak Express Company (COC & PPE) had already been running a freight and passenger service to California. One of its officials, William Russell, suggested having a new mail-delivery service. He was given permission to create a subsidiary of COC & PPE, and the firm of Russell, Majors and Waddell opened to operate the new service.

The run was long and difficult, covering 1,966 miles in about ten days, twice as fast as any of the coaches. Eighty riders with 400 fast horses rode in shifts of thirty miles between the 190 stations. Most of the riders were young boys armed only with their mail pouch and a knife, a risky situation considering that there were many dangers along the trail. Among the riders was the famous William F. Cody or Buffalo Bill, who once rode 384 miles continuously.

The mail rate was $5 for a half-ounce, and only once was a single item of mail lost. However, the price was too expensive for most Californians. In the 16 months of the Pony Expressís existence, only 12 pieces of mail were ever sent east, and fewer than 200 items of mail were sent west. The company had trouble making a profit despite the attention to the service when it was described by author Mark Twain. With the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861, along with the completion of a telegraph line to California, the Pony Express ceased to exist.


First transcontinental telegraph lines were completed


In 1860, Los Angeles and San Francisco had been connected by telegraph, helping to integrate northern and southern California. On October 24, 1861, San Francisco was connected to Salt Lake City, Saint Louis, and New York by the first transcontinental telegraph line. This achievement by Pacific Telegraph was remarkable for the variety of hazardous terrain crossed by the line, which nevertheless rarely failed to deliver its message. The telegraph ended the need for the Pony Express and shortened communication time between California and the rest of the United States to minutes, instead of the more than a week it had required before. The first message sent eastward from California was a letter to President Abraham Lincoln, working out the details of sending supplies to California during the Civil War.


University of California was founded


In 1868 the first state university in California was founded. There were already universities in California; the College of Santa Clara (now University of Santa Clara) and the College of the Pacific (now University of the Pacific) both began holding classes in 1851. In 1868, The Morrill Land Grant Act offered federal money to establish a state university.

The College of California, a private college which began in 1855, was changed by a legislative charter into the University of California on March 23, 1868.† It opened in Oakland and enrolled young men from the area. The following year it began admitting women, which most universities then did not do. In 1872 Daniel Colt Gilman was appointed president and the next year he shifted the campus to Berkeley, where it remains. The University of California grew to be a respected institution, and is widely regarded today as one of the best state-run universities in the country.


Central Pacific Railway joined the Union Pacific linking California to the East

In 1869 a new route to California opened when the Central Pacific rails linked with the Union Pacific at Promontory, Utah, to complete the first transcontinental railroad system. In 1859, a young construction engineer named Theodore Judah had the idea of building a railroad through the Sierra Nevada Mountains and on, to meet the rail networks east of the Mississippi River. His Central Pacific railroad company was in competition with the Union Pacific company that was building westward from Nebraska.

At first the two railroad lines each wanted to build the whole route, but in 1862 Congress directed them to work together. While the Union Pacific built through the wide plains, the Central Pacific advanced slowly over the mountains. The strikes and frequent turnovers of workers were largely solved in 1865, when Chinese labor was hired. By 1869 as many as 15,000 Chinese-Americans were working on the railroad. On May 10, 1869, the two lines met at Promontory, Utah. The final golden spike was driven into the railroad by Leland Stanford, the president of Central Pacific.


POPULATION

CALIFORNIA
379,994
San Francisco
56,802
Sacramento
13,785
Marysville
4,740
Los Angeles
4,385
Stockton
3,679


Go to Top