Description

    An Original 1858 Russell, Majors & Waddell
    "Pony Express Bible"

    [Pony Express Bible]. The Holy Bible, Containing the Old and New Testaments, Translated Out of the Original Tongues; and With the Former Translations Diligently Compared and Revised. New York: American Bible Society, 1855 (New Testament title page dated 1858).

    Thick pocket-sized volume (5 x 3.5 inches, 127 x 89 mm.), bound in eights. 1,278 pages.

    In the original custom leather binding, with gilt-lettered black leather title label on spine. Binding is largely perished, with loss to leather, spine, and corners. Front board detached but present. Binding broken. One signature bound out of order: p. 448 is followed by pp. 769-780, with p. 768 followed by p. 781. Several leaves detached, but all present. Minor dampstaining affecting the first few leaves, occasional foxing throughout. Leaf containing pages 795/796 torn almost completely in half, with no loss of text. First few pages of the New Testament chipped at top right corner, with some loss of text. Several slips of paper and flower petals laid in throughout - some causing offsetting. Imprinted on the front board are the words "Presented by / Russell, Majors & Waddell / 1858" in worn gilt print, the gilt quite faint and almost completely worn away. With ink name of Russell, Majors & Waddell employee "R. J. Haligan [sic] / June 9th 1858" in neat handwritten script on the front free endpaper. A complete copy of a "Pony Express Bible" in its original, though heavily-worn, binding. Very rare, with very few extant copies located.

    William Russell, Alexander Majors, and William Waddell -- the three founders of the Pony Express -- began their partnership in 1854 with the formation of Russell, Majors & Waddell, a large freighting and stage business which crisscrossed the Western frontier, providing freight, mail, and passenger service. In 1860, the company was contracted by the U.S. government to begin a fast mail delivery service between St. Joseph, Missouri and Sacramento. This service was The Pony Express, the legendary Wild West mail service with individual mounted horsemen riding in relays to cover vast distances in a short time, operating under the slogan "The mail must go through." The Pony Express service lasted a mere nineteen months, but it has become a mainstay in the lore and legend of the American West.

    Partner Alexander Majors was a staunchly religious man who not only decreed that the Sabbath be observed as a day of rest for his employees, but who also insisted that his workers take an oath promising to abstain from using profane language, from drinking to excess, and from gambling. He presented his employees -- including the Pony Express riders -- with a custom-bound Bible. Over the years, this Bible has come to be known as the "Pony Express Bible." Each Bible had the words "Presented by Russell, Majors & Waddell 1858" stamped in gilt on its front cover. The Bible offered here is one of those "Pony Express Bibles" which are quite rare and are highly sought-after artifacts of the Old West.

    This Bible was presented to teamster and outrider Robert James Halligan (1833-1908), an employee of Russell, Majors & Waddell who worked for the firm in the years prior to and including the days of the Pony Express, and he apparently remained in the employ of Alexander Majors even after the Pony Express was dissolved.

    Halligan's daughter wrote in a statement prepared in the 1930s that her father's name was written inside the Bible by Ulysses Simpson, the train's wagon boss who was "reported to be a foster father" of the young William F. Cody who would go on to fame later as "Buffalo Bill" Cody. Cody began to work with the Russell, Majors & Waddell freighting operation as a boy. Halligan's daughter writes that Halligan remembered Cody and thought him to be about thirteen years when he first knew him. Halligan's daughter's original typed statement is included with this lot.

    A historic, if well-worn, copy of the supremely rare 1858 Russell, Majors & Waddell "Pony Express Bible," passed down through generations and kept in the family of its original owner for over a century and a half.


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    Auction Dates
    October, 2010
    14th-16th Thursday-Saturday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 4
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