B.F. Hastings Building: First Floor

The Pony Express was one of the West's most colorful and exciting endeavors. Organized in 1860 by the Central Overland California and Pike's Peak Express Company, the Pony Express Company provided ten-day mail service between St. Joseph, Missouri, and Sacramento via the Central Overland Route.

Both the Alta California and the California State Telegraph Companies were agents for the Pony Express during the time they maintained their offices in the B. F. Hastings Building. The Alta California Telegraph Company was agent from April to July of 1860. The California State Telegraph Company absorbed Alta in that month and continued as agent from July 1860 until March of 1861. At that time a former occupant of the Hastings Building, Wells Fargo & Company, became agent until the "Pony" ceased operation in October of 1861, when completion of the transcontinental telegraph (October 24, 1861) rendered horse and rider service obsolete.

To commemorate the contribution of the Pony Express to Sacramento history, the Sophia Comstock Memorial Committee on June 4, 1976 dedicated a fifteen-foot high bronze statue of a Pony Express rider at the corner of Second and J Streets. Thomas Holland was the sculptor of this piece.

Telegraphy was a fairly recent invention when it made its appearance in California. The first successful experiment using the principle of the recording telegraph was conducted by its inventor, Samuel F. B. Morse, in 1836 and patented in October 1837. In 1838 Morse unsuccessfully petitioned Congress for a grant to build a telegraph line between Washington, D.C. and Baltimore; but not until May 24, 1844 would Morse's famous query, "What hath God wrought?" flash across 40 miles of wire to usher in a new era in communication.

California's first electric telegraph line was built in San Francisco between Telegraph Hill and Point Lobos and began operation on September 22, 1853. Its sole purpose was to signal the arrival of ships at the Golden Gate. As early as May 1852, a franchise to build a telegraph line between San Francisco and Marysville was granted by the state's legislature.

This line was scheduled to begin operation in 1853, but the San Francisco fire of 1852 created insurmountable financial problems and the fledgling enterprise failed. The company was reorganized and incorporated with $300,000 capital stock as the California State Telegraph Company in June 1853. By October 25, 1853, the company was operating over 210 miles of line stretching between San Francisco, San Jose, Stockton, Sacramento, and Marysville.

A competing company was organized and began operation January 21, 1854. This company, the Alta California Telegraph Company, was capitalized at $120,000 and operated over 165 miles of line. Communication was provided between Sacramento, Mormon Island, Diamond Springs, Placerville, Coloma, Auburn, Grass Valley, Nevada City, and south to Stockton, Jamestown, Sonora, and Columbia.

The Alta California Telegraph Company moved into the B. F. Hastings Building (40 Second Street) in December 1858 and remained there until absorbed by the California State Telegraph Company in July of 1860. After the consolidation of the two companies, the California State line continued to occupy the 40 Second Street address until November of 1863.

California State continued to increase the size and scope of its operations until by the beginning of 1864 it owned all lines and rights to operate in the area west of the Rocky Mountains. The only exception to the California State monopoly was the telegraph constructed by the Central Pacific Railroad along its route. Western Union purchased a controlling interest in California State in 1864 thus signalling a new era in communications.