Today I stumbled on a plaque on the west side of The Embarcadero. It honors a long forgotten pier that once stood on the other side of the street facing Oakland: the Broadway Wharf.
The plaque reads:
Pony Express Wharf
Nearby was the location of the Broadway Wharf, the wharf extended from Broadway and Davis Streets east to this location. All of the Pony Express mail that was delivered to and from San Francisco used this wharf. The Pony Express ran from April 3, 1860 to November 20, 1861.
The Pony Express mail was carried by either the “River Steamers” of the California Steam Navigation Company that operated between here and Sacramento or the ferry “Oakland” that operated between Oakland and here.
The NoeHill website features several related Pony Express plaques nearby but oddly enough not this one. The SF Chronicle wrote about the Pony Express a couple of years ago and mentioned these plaques in the article. Both links are worth reading.
I think it’s quite interesting that the Pony Express is so well remembered today despite not lasting very long. It was the first form of cross country express mail, albeit unaffordable for most.
The Pony Express was discontinued a couple years before the US Civil War, and several years before the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad. While it would be tempting to blame these events — or the simple fact that the Pony Express was a financial flop — on its rapid demise, there’s a much simpler explanation. The first electronic telegraph service arrived in San Francisco on the final month of Pony Express service, October 1861.
History repeated itself a century later when hand delivered mail fell out of favor entirely with the emerging technologies of email and text messaging. Who can say what’s next, let alone whether it will warrant its own plaque?