Pony Express: 'The Twisted Truth'

New Book Reexamines Fabled Chapter of American History

Listen: Listen as author Christopher Corbett explains the danger riders faced.

Listen: Hear how the mail service worked.

Listen: Hear how the Pony Express legend came about.

Orphans Preferred book cover.

"Orphans Preferred: The Twisted Truth and Lasting Legend of the Pony Express," by Christopher Corbett. Broadway Books hide caption

itoggle caption Broadway Books

An 1861 advertisement for the Pony Express. Bettmann/Corbis hide caption

See the entire poster.
itoggle caption Bettmann/Corbis
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It's 1860, and a dusty rider on a fast horse thunders past a remote outpost in the American West. Like relay racers preparing for a handoff, another horse gallops down the road. The rider jumps from one mount to the other and the Pony Express goes racing on to deliver the mail. But is that how it actually happened?

The saga of the Pony Express is rooted in actual events and real people, but over the years it's been made into legend, embellished by everyone from Mark Twain in Roughing It to the creators of classic film Westerns.

The truth is, the Pony Express lasted for less than two years, and was a financial disaster. Christopher Corbett explores fact and myth in his new book, Orphans Preferred: The Twisted Truth and Lasting Legend of the Pony Express. NPR's Linda Wertheimer talks with Corbett about the real story of the Pony Express.

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