Dangers, Disasters and Good Deeds

Dangers of the Trail

America’s postal service was the major medium of news and information in the nineteenth century. Stagecoach lines that moved the mail, as well as money and minerals, were frequently ambushed and robbed.

Private stagecoach carrying mail
In 1857, the Postmaster General began contracting with private stagecoach companies for mail service in the western territories.

The Last Stagecoach Robbery

Commemorated by Hollywood and pulp fiction as part of the great adventure of the Wild West, stagecoach hold-ups put the mail at risk and endangered the lives of those on board. All too often mail coach robberies ended in tragedy and death.

In 1881 alone, there were eighty-six stagecoach hold-ups in the United States. Robbers typically were looking for gold shipments, bank transfers and cash being transported in registered mail sacks. Jewelry and other valuables were usually taken from passengers at gunpoint.

Four men posing for a photo next to a wrecked stagecoach in a river with a dead horse
Wreck of Weaverville Stage near Redding, California