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Brown & Butterfield

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illustration of Aaron Brown
Postmaster General Aaron Brown

As Congress hoped, immigrants eager for a fresh start and land of their own poured across the overland trails after the Civil War. Private companies, enticed by federal mail contracts, strove to create and maintain mail routes in the new territories. 

On March 3, 1857, Congress authorized Postmaster General Aaron Brown to contract for mail service across the trans-Mississippi west. The mail was to reach its destination in no more than 25 days. Brown was also tasked by Congress with determining the route that would be used to move mail west. A Kentuckian by birth, Brown selected a route that passed through the southern portion of the territory. 

illustration of John Butterfield
John Butterfield

The lucrative contract was awarded to John Butterfield's Overland Stage, established in 1858. Butterfield contracted to provide six years of semiweekly mail service at the unheard-of rate of $600,000 a year (which did not include the money Butterfield would also bring in by carrying passengers along the route at an average cost of $200 per passenger for the entire distance). 

Additional Imagery

  • illustration showing an Overland mail stage crossing a stream
    An illustration showing an Overland mail stage crossing a stream
  • 1858 Overland Mail Companythrough time schedule between St. Louis, MO., Memphis, Tenn. & San Francisco, Cal.
    Butterfield's coaches set out along the route on September 15, 1858. Stagecoaches carried mail and passengers on a semiweekly basis over the 2,800-mile long route.