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NEWS OF 150 YEARS AGO
March and April of 1860
From The Missouri Democrat, Monday, April 15, 1860.
Nine Days from California.
Only Eleven Days from San Francisco to St. Louis, direct-Grand Triumph for the Central Route-The Past and Present.
We record to-day one of the grandest triumphs in the annals of American enterprise. The California news presented in extenso to our readers, this morning, was made up in the city of San Francisco expressly for the DEMOCRAT, only a little more than a week ago. It left that city at 4 p.m., on the 3d inst. by steamboat, arrived in Sacramento, the capital of the State on the morning of the 4th, came 27 miles by railroad to Folsom, thence 29 miles by stage coach to Placerville, and thence by relays of horses, 1,800 miles across the continent. Thus it came flying from station to station; (employing thirty-six couriers, and nearly one hundred horses on the trip) to the Missouri river and by railroad to this city. By the free use of the telegraph every city in the Union was at an early hour on Saturday morning placed in possession of news from the Pacific Ocean only ten days old. Had not the wires unfortunately given out on Friday evening, the news would have been received in New York the same evening, or only nine days old. We have hopes that the far-famed Adriatic, which left New York on Saturday for Europe, will cross the ocean in ten days, and thus deliver California news in England within twenty days! This will complete the triumph, and the moral results cannot fail to awaken a profound sensation. When we compare this fast time with the long and tedious journeys between California and the Atlantic states of other days, it almost seems like a dream. Going back ten years, the emigrant trips across the plains used to occupy from four to six months. Ninety days was the shortest trip known up to 1853. The Government couriers passing between Salt Lake and the Pacific, sometimes made the distance in ten or fifteen days, and from the Missouri river to Salt Lake in twenty, making the through trip in 30 to 35 days, though no practical benefit was ever contemplated, the relative distances being made to accommodate local service. Then came the Overland Mail, by the Butterfield route, and the extraordinary reduction in time, first to 25 days, and then ultimately to an average of 21 days. In December, 1858, the President's message was taken over the continent, (two-thirds the distance by coaches, and one-third by horses,) from St. Louis to San Francisco, in nineteen days. The Central route contractors did not receive the message in time to start in an even race with their competitors, but started it several days after, and went through from St. Joseph to Placerville, in 17 days. As the railroad to St. Joseph was not then completed, and as 24 hours was required from Placerville to San Francisco, this trip was equivalent to about twenty days from this city, or one day longer than the Butterfield time. The latter route again asserted its apparent superiority last winter by expressing the Message from Melloy's station, 240 miles from St. Louis, to the telegraphic terminus, 160 miles below San Francisco, in fifteen days-though this trip we do not regard as more than one day better than that of 1858, when they went through in nineteen days from this city direct.
Some very fast time has also been made by the Ocean and Isthmus routes-indeed the fastest time ever made in the delivery of newspapers from the Atlantic to San Francisco, was in December, 1853, by an express from Vera Cruz to Acapulco, via the City of Mexico, run under the auspices of what is known to Congress and the department as the Ramsay Contract. The time from New Orleans to San Francisco was exactly fifteen days-eleven days on the ocean and four crossing Mexico. The defunct Nicaragua route distinguished itself in the fall of 1855 by landing California passengers in New York in nineteen days and twenty hours. This remained the quickest trip on record for several years. The Panama route approached it within a few hours several times, and trips in twenty days and a half were often accomplished. Then the Tehuantepec route went into operation in 1858, and had its arrangements been perfect could have carried off the palm for fast passenger trips beyond question. As it was they managed to deliver a few passengers in San Francisco in eighteen days from New Orleans, and vice versa, but they missed connections on both sides so often that the triumph was barren. The route is now like that of Nicaragua which it rivaled in fast time, closed. Last year, when the Collins steamers went into the California trade passengers from San Francisco were landed in New York via Panama in nineteen days and sixteen hours, or four hours ahead of the Nicaragua time, and afterwards another lot arrived in nineteen days and eighteen hours, and still another lot in nineteen days and twenty-two hours-which trips remain the quickest on record for passenger transportation between San Francisco and New York, and only surpassed as between the California and any Atlantic port by the partially successful efforts of the Tehuantepec Company at New Orleans, just mentioned. It is proper in noticing these fast trips to state, that the passage around Cape Horn to California, a distance of eighteen thousand miles, has been made three times in the astonishing short space of eighty-nine days; once in ninety days, twice in ninety-two days, four times in ninety-four days, and several times in ninety-five, ninety-six and ninety-seven days, from New York; and once in ninety-two days, once in ninety-six and once in ninety-seven days, from Boston. This sailing at an average of new two hundred miles per day, without the aid of steam, deserves to be ranked among the most extraordinary fast trips on record. It is proper to maintain, moreover, that by the first through trip of the Tehuantepec Company, news from Europe was received in San Francisco in twenty-seven days, the Persia having crossed the ocean inside of ten days, and the news telegraphed from New York to New Orleans the morning the Tehuantepec steamer left. We believe this ends the record of the quickest trips up to this time. The ocean passages up to 1853 took thirty-one days, and when the time was reduced to twenty-nine days a shout of joy went through California from one end of the State to the other.
All these trips forever sink into the shade of insignificance along side of that achieved by the central route and the Pony Express, which arrived on Friday evening. Eleven days from the steamboat wharf in San Francisco to the railroad depot in St. Louis! Nine days from the telegraphic terminus on the California end to the commencement of the telegraph on this side. Government with its blundering Postmaster Generals and Texas influence has again been outstripped by private enterprise, and Government will be forced to succumb. The Southern route must be abandoned, and another more central be selected for the conveyance of the mails to the Pacific. Let us make an air line from St. Louis to the track of the emigrants to Pike's Peak, cut across the mountains, and dash onward to Carson Valley, where thousands are now locating at the new silver mines. The success of the horse express, grand as it seems, is nothing compared to what is possible by the proper expenditure of money and the wise exercise of power and shortening the distance between the Atlantic and Pacific. We regard these signs as the forerunning of the Pacific Railroad, and if Congress was as fully alive to the importance of that project, as it is concerning the eternal nigger, we might hope, a few years hence, to chronicle an arrival, four days from California, with as much satisfaction as we chronicle an arrival to-day in ten. But let the agitation continue, the work must be done some day, and each link of evidence attesting to the practicability of the Central Route, like that afforded by the Horse Express, will add strength to the enterprise and urge its completion, with a substantial force that even a Democratic Senate cannot reject.
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