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Lot 243

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Pony Express Ledger from Northern Kansas with Entries for the Overland Mail Company That Ben Holladay Used

[WEST.] Gerat H. Hollenberg, Handwritten Ledger of Accounts, including Overland Mail Company, ca. 1859-1866, Hanover, Kansas. 128 pp., 4ʺ x 9.75ʺ. Original wrappers, minor wear; some soiling and some pages cut or torn; crudely stitched.

This ledger records accounts with individual customers of Great H. Hollenberg’s store in northern Kansas, including items purchased and amounts, many with “paid” notations. Items sold included alcohol, tobacco, calico fabric, tea, coffee, salt, bacon, hats, shovels, and many other items.

The final pages of the ledger record transactions with the Overland Mail Company, both the Upper Division and the Lower Division. Hollenberg provided lumber to the company and meals for its riders and horses, after the Civil War forced the company to transfer from its southern route to the central route in the summer of 1861.

William H. Russell, Alexander Majors and William B. Waddell had developed the biggest freighting business on the plains, and they entered the passenger and express mail service in 1860 with the Pony Express on this central route, from St. Joseph, Missouri, to Sacramento, California. Hollenberg’s home and store served as one stop along the route.

Also using the central route was the “Stagecoach King” Ben Holladay, who ran the Overland Stage Route on the Overland Trail west from Atchison, Kansas, to Colorado, then northward into southern Wyoming to join the Oregon Trail at Fort Bridger. In 1866, Holladay sold his stage routes to Wells Fargo Express for $1.5 million.

Hollenberg’s Pony Express Station is a Kansas State Historic Site and a National Historic Landmark.


Overland Mail Co / uper Division
Sep 10 3 meals 1 50
hay for 4 horse 50
12 one man 3 meal 1 50
4 horses hay 50

Gerat H. Hollenberg (1823-1874) was born in Germany and came to the United States in the late 1840s. He joined a party of men who prospected for gold in California, Australia, and Peru. In 1854, he settled in Marshall County, in northern Kansas Territory, where the Oregon-California Trail crossed the Black Vermillion River. He kept a stock of goods that he sold to travelers on the trail. In 1857, he moved his business a few dozen miles west to Washington County to capture traffic from the St. Joseph branch of the Oregon-California Trail as well as the older southern branch. In May 1858, he married Sophia Brockmeyer (1837-1914), but they did not have any children. Over time, his one-room log cabin developed into a long five-room building. He sold supplies, meals, and lodging. His ranch and store served as a stop for the Pony Express during its brief existence, and also for the Overland Mail Company. He founded the town of Hanover, Kansas, in 1869; made a small fortune in real estate; and served for three terms in the Kansas legislature (1863-1864, 1866-1867). He died onboard a ship bound for Germany on a trip to encourage immigration to Kansas.

The Overland Mail Company (1858-1861) was established by John Butterfield as a stagecoach service that carried passengers and mail from either Memphis, Tennessee, or St. Louis, Missouri to San Francisco, California. After two and a half years of service, the outbreak of the Civil War forced it to transfer to the Central Overland Route in the summer of 1861, leading westward from Atchison, Kansas, to Sacramento and San Francisco.

The Pony Express (1860-1861) was a mail service operated by the Central Overland California and Pikes Peak Express Company, founded by William H. Russell, Alexander Majors, and William B. Waddell. Between April 1860 and October 1861, messages could travel from the Atlantic to the Pacific coasts of the United States in about ten days, utilizing telegraph lines and this service. It was largely replaced by the establishment of the transcontinental telegraph in October 1861. The service worked by having 184-186 stations located approximately ten miles apart along the 1,900-mile route from St. Joseph, Missouri, to Sacramento, California. The route followed the Oregon and California Trails to Fort Bridger, then the Mormon Trail to Salt Lake City, then the Central Nevada Route to Carson City, where it passed over the Sierra to Sacramento, California. A rider, who could not weigh over 125 pounds, rode day and night for approximately 70 to 100 miles, changing to a fresh horse at each station. Over his saddle was a mochila (Spanish for pouch) with four padlocked corner pockets that together held up to twenty pounds of mail. Russell, Majors, and Waddell lost $500,000 on their Pony Express venture. As a business venture, it was a failure, but it played a critical role in securing California and its gold resources for the Union at the outbreak of the Civil War.

This item comes with a Certificate from John Reznikoff, a premier authenticator for both major 3rd party authentication services, PSA and JSA (James Spence Authentications), as well as numerous auction houses.


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