The Alyeska Collection of the Pony Express will auction on March 20 in New York, headlined by a rare cover that was stolen by Native Americans.
The Pony Express is probably the most famous of all mail services in history, delivering mail from St Joseph, Missouri across the Great Plains and Rocky Mountains to Sacramento, California. The remarkable Alyeska collection traces the romance and harsh realities of this vital route in a series of 17 covers.
The stolen cover leads the collection, valued at $200,000-300,000. It originates from the so-called "Incident at Platte Bridge Station", when a rider was thrown from his horse on July 28, 1860 at the Platte River bridge in Wyoming while delivering mail from San Francisco.
The horse and its rider were never found following the incident, despite a 20-man search party that lasted 10 days. The Pony Express mail he was carrying had been stolen by Native Americans, and was only recovered two years later in 1862.
The cover at auction bears the evidence of this, with "recovered from a mail stolen in 1860" written on the back and a New York receipt reading "received May 1st 1862".
The Pony Express existed for just 18 months from April 1860 to October 1861, leaving behind a very small selection of items for collectors. However, it was the most important means of communication between America's east and west, particularly the new state of California, and has given rise to numerous legends, its riders including the famous William Cody, aka Buffalo Bill.
The current world record for any item of Pony Express mail is held by one of only two $4 covers sent from Hawaii, which sold for $550,000 in 2009.
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