The 15th Maynard Sundman Lecture

October 10, 2018

Dr. Glen Sample Ely: The Texas Frontier and the Butterfield Overland Mail, 1858-1861

Cover of the book The Texas Frontier and the Butterfield Overland Mail, 1858-1861

In 1857, the U.S. Postmaster General awarded a $600,000 annual contract for the nation’s first transcontinental mail service from St. Louis to San Francisco. The contract went to the Overland Mail Company. Company president John Butterfield was the namesake of this 2800-mile mail route, which became known as the Butterfield Overland Mail. The Overland Mail Road was the nineteenth-century equivalent of the modern interstate highway system, stimulating passenger traffic, commercial freighting, and business. Many of the people living and working on the frontier during this period had connections to the mail line. Indeed, one cannot talk about the antebellum western frontier without also discussing the U.S. Post Office and its economic imprint upon the region. Dr. Glen Sample Ely spent a quarter century documenting 740 miles of this famous mail route from the Red River to El Paso. Ely’s engaging presentation will not only feature fascinating little-known postal history, but will also take the audience on a journey aboard a Butterfield stagecoach for a firsthand look at America’s rowdy frontier and those who shaped it.

A book signing took place following the lecture.

About Dr. Glen Sample Ely

Glen Ely portrait

Dr. Glen Sample Ely is a Texas historian and documentary producer. He earned his Ph.D. in history from Texas Christian University. Ely’s work has won The Award of Excellence in Preserving History from the Texas Historical Commission as well as Gold and Silver Wilder Awards from the Texas Association of Museums. His first book, Where the West Begins: Debating Texas Identity, was published by Texas Tech University Press in 2011. His latest book, The Texas Frontier and the Butterfield Overland Mail, published by University of Oklahoma Press, has won twelve awards and honors to date. Earlier this year he was inducted as a Fellow to the Texas State Historical Association in recognition of his “distinguished published works” and “exemplary scholarly activity.”