The Pony Express Bible is a Protestant Bible that was distributed to the Pony Express riders in 1860 and 1861.
The special edition leather-bound Bible was given to all the employees by the operators Russell, Majors and Waddell. Its dimensions are about 5.7 inches (14.5 cm) tall by 3.6 inches (9.1 cm) wide and a little over 2 inches thick. It has 1,278 double-columned pages.
The copies of the Bible were specifically commissioned by Alexander Majors and contained full Protestant canon of both the Old and New Testaments. The firm had originally purchased these special copies for their company's wagon-train employees. The Bibles had gold lettering on the cover with a contemporary inscription and the wording, "Presented by Russell, Majors & Waddell. 1858". The source for the Old and New Testaments was an 1858 King James Version published by the American Bible Society in New York City.
On commencing employment, a Pony Express rider was given one of the special edition Bibles. The rider had to swear to and sign the frontier pledge of loyalty, honesty, and sobriety, that was on the inside front cover of the Bible:
I, ....., do hereby swear, before the Great and Living God, that during my engagement, and while I am an employee of Russell, Majors, and Waddell, I will, under no circumstances, use profane language, that I will drink no intoxicating liquors, that I will not quarrel or fight with any other employee of the firm, and that in every respect I will conduct myself honestly, be faithful to my duties, and so direct all my acts as to win the confidence of my employers, so help me God.— Oath sworn by Pony Express Riders
It appears that the 183 riders employed from April 1860 to November 1861 did not take the pledge very seriously as, on the whole, they were considered dreadful, rough and unconventional.
Alexander Majors, one of the original operators of the Pony Express, had religious convictions and required certain principles be held that he related to the Christian Bible. Examples were not to swear in public or drink intoxicating alcoholic beverages and that each rider was to honor Sunday as a day of rest. Initially the Pony Express riders were issued certain pieces of equipment to carry, which included a bowie knife, and the Pony Express Bible. Later, most of this hardware was abandoned because it was too heavy to carry and looked upon as extra unnecessary items for their journey. Some sources say that the riders carried the Bible given them, at least in the beginning.  Other sources say the riders never carried their Bible since it added weight that would slow down the pony they were riding. Many of the riders took only a single pistol with an extra cylinder of bullets on their rides. Some didn't even take a gun, depending instead on the speed of their pony for their greatest defense against hostilities.
The Forty-fifth Annual Report of the American Bible Society shows 300 copies of the Bibles granted May 9, 1861, to Major and Russell by the American Bible Society. Of as the last record known of a 1960 'census' there were 12 copies left in existence. There have been only two of these Bibles that were made available for public purchase since 1980.
- 2 copies – Pony Express History and Art Gallery, San Rafael, California
- 2 copies – Daughters of Utah Pioneers, Salt Lake City, Utah
- 1 copy – Bancroft Library, Berkeley, California
- 1 copy – Denver City Library (Main), Denver, Colorado
- 1 copy – Mormon Station State Historical Monument, Genoa, Nevada
- 1 copy – Nebraska State Historical Society, Lincoln, Nebraska
- 1 copy – Sons of Utah Pioneers, Salt Lake City, Utah
- 1 copy – State Historical Society of Colorado, Denver, Colorado
- 1 copy – Society of California Pioneers, San Francisco, California
- 1 copy – California Historical Society, San Francisco, California
Society of California Pioneers
- Pony Express Bible owned by the Society of California Pioneers.
Overland Mail Company
The Pony Express route that the riders used went through the Territories of Utah, Nebraska and Kansas sharing relay stations with the Butterfield Overland Mail Company stagecoach line. The Overland Mail Company eventually did take over the western portion of the Pony Express route that went to Sacramento, California, when the Pony Express firm was dissolved in 1861. The Pony Express route went through what are now the states of Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, Nevada, and California.
The Overland Mail Company station operators likely had copies of the American Bible Society's 1859 edition of the Bible similar to the 1858 Pony Express Bible.
On the Pawn Stars television program in season 8, episode 55 called "Ponies and Phonies" (April 24, 2014), the Overland Mail Company Bible is compared to the Pony Express Bible by rare book consultant Rebecca Romney.
- Central Overland California and Pikes Peak Express Company
- Postage stamps and postal history of the United States
- Godfrey 1994, p. 62.
- Chapman 1932, p. 300.
- Newberry Library 1968, p. 46.
- Heritage Auctions 2010, p. 95.
- "Original Russell, Majors & Waddell "Pony Express Bible," 1858". The Ephemera Network. Mike Ferguson. 2014. Archived from the original on 2014-05-12. Retrieved 2014-05-05.
- Livingston 1948, p. 46.
- Parke-Bernet Galleries 1947, p. 9.
- Corbett 2003, p. 46 Alexander Majors of the great freight-hauling firm of Russell, Majors & Waddell, which underwrote this venture, gave every employee a little calfskin-bound Bible, although the curious often wondered how a man riding a horse at a gallop from St. Joseph, Missouri, to Sacramento, California, would have had occasion for Bible study.
- Settle 1975, p. 45 When the job was done [recruiting], about thirty riders had signed Majors' pledge, given bond for the faithful performance of their duty, and received a little Bible.
- Guthrie & Smith 2009, p. 21.
- "UCB Library Catalog". The Regents of the University of California. University of California. 2014. Retrieved 2014-06-07.
- Burton, Richard (1862). The City of the Saints. New York: Harper & Brothers.
- Bradley & Smith 1960, p. 66.
- Jeffrey 2010, p. 22.
- Settle 1975, p. 7 In writing that pledge and requiring his employees to sign and keep it, Majors was giving expression to his lifelong, stern, Calvinistic Presbyterian sentiments. He read his Bible regularly, attended church when he could, and sought to practice Christian principles in all his relations with other men. Note: this was written about his life prior to establishing the Pony Express, but similar pledges were used for the employees of his various companies..
- "Pony Express: Romance versus Reality". National Postal Museum. Smithsonian Institution. 2014. Archived from the original on 2013-10-21. Retrieved 2014-05-05.
- "The Pony Express in Nevada". U.S. Dept. of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management. 1990. Retrieved 2014-05-05.
- "Did ABS Print a Special Pony Express Bible?". American Bible Society News. American Bible Society. 2014. Retrieved 2014-05-07.
- "The Famous 1858 "Pony Express Bible"". Heritage Auctions. 2014. Retrieved 2014-05-05.
- "Catalog Card Call Number: C220.52 B47ho". DPL Catalog Cards. Denver Public Library. 2014. Retrieved 2014-05-21.
- "The Holy Bible : containing the Old and New Testaments, translated out of the original tongues, and with the former translations diligently compared and revised". Library of Congress Catalog.
- "Pony Express Route". Pony Express History. 2014. Retrieved 2014-05-13.
- "Chronological History of the Bible – 19th Century/1851-1900". Clausen Books. 2012. Retrieved 2014-05-13.
- "History Channel / Pawn Stars / Episodes 2014". History. A&E Television Networks. 2014. Retrieved 2014-05-13.
- Bradley, Glenn Danford; Smith, Waddell F. (1960). The Story of the Pony Express. Edited by Waddel F. Smith. (Second Edition.) [With "The Pony Express: Heroic Effort-tragic End" by Raymond W. Settle. With Plates, Including Portraits.]. San Francisco.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
- Chapman, Arthur (1932). The Pony Express: The Record of a Romantic Adventure in Business. G. P. Putnam's Sons.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
- Corbett, Christopher (2003). Orphans preferred : the twisted truth and lasting legend of the Pony Express. New York: Broadway Books. ISBN 0767906926.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
- Godfrey, Anthony (1994). Pony Express National Historic Trail. National Park Service.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
- Guthrie, Carol; Smith, Bart (2009). The Pony Express: An Illustrated History. Globe Pequot. ISBN 978-0-7627-6202-6.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
- Heritage Auctions (2010). HSA Americana Auction Catalog #6035, Dallas, TX. Heritage Capital Corporation. ISBN 978-1-59967-459-9.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
- Jeffrey, Grant R. (2010). The Signature of God, Revised Edition: Conclusive Proof That Every Teaching, Every Command, Every Promise in the Bible Is True. Doubleday Religious Publishing Group. ISBN 978-0-307-45905-3.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
- Livingston, Luther Samuel (1948). American Book Prices Current. Bancroft-Parkman.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
- Newberry Library (1968). A Catalogue of the Everett D. Graff Collection of Western Americana. University of Chicago Press. ISBN 978-0-226-77579-1.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
- Parke-Bernet Galleries (1947). Sales. Parke-Bernet Galleries.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
- Settle, Raymond (1975). The story of the Pony Express. London, New York: Foulsham. ISBN 0572008775.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)