ON THIS DAY in 1861, the famous Pony Express folded, after about a year and a half of operation between St. Joseph and Sacramento. And if anyone still insists that Americans worship only success, Dr. Boli would like to ask whether any successful business has ever generated more romance and legend than this short-lived and disastrously unprofitable enterprise, established at exactly the wrong time, and doomed to early failure from the outset. Perhaps not until the Edsel—the Ford Motor Company’s grand scheme to compete head-to-head with Chrysler’s DeSoto—would we see a similarly misconceived attempt.

Why, then, is Edsel a byword for failure, when the news that the Pony Express had an even shorter life is often met with incredulity? Dr. Boli has no immediate explanation, except to say that perhaps we prefer our romantic failures to involve horses in some capacity.

Dr. Boli would also like to point out to those who complain about the rising cost of postage that in 1861 it cost $2, or roughly $25 in today’s money, to send a one-ounce letter to California.


  1. raf says:

    I, for one, have never had a romantic failure involving a horse.

  2. Dr. Bjorn Bjornsen says:

    What’s all this I hear about romantic farmers and horses? If some farmer wishes to have a relationship with a horse, well shouldn’t that be HIS business? I remember when I was young, I had rather tender thoughts about a neighbor’s cow.

    Ehhhh, Dr. Bjornsen, that’s “romatic FAILURES”.

    Ohhhh, that’s very different.

    Never mind.

  3. zeppflyer says:

    The notion of the Edsel as a great failure was foreordained the day that the boy was born and Henry gave him such a name. To paraphrase the Times when speaking of that well-known Norwegian traitor:

    “To writers, the word is a gift from the gods. If they had been ordered to invent a new word for …they could hardly have hit upon a more brilliant combination of letters. Aurally it contrives to suggest something at once .”

    Funnier yet is the consideration that the Edsel failed because it was too far ahead of it’s time, while the PE did so because it was behind it’s own.

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