Google doodle honors the Pony Express

Google marks the 155th anniversary of the Pony Express.
Google marks the 155th anniversary of the Pony Express.

Google paid tribute this week to the Pony Express on the 155th anniversary of its first mail delivery.

Visitors to Google’s home page were greeting by a specially themed Google doodle. Those who clicked on it were treated to a game, which can still be accessed here.

Players are required to direct their mount with their keyboard arrow keys, collecting 100 letters along the way. However, there are obstacles that have to be avoided.

Google admits that it was excited to share the doodle, saying that the notion of triumph through adversity through the Pony Express service was so inspirational.

“So when William H.Russell, Alexander Majors and William B Waddell founded the Pony Express on April 3, 1860, they set in motion a wonderful yet daunting method of communication.

“What a concept – riders with letters on horseback racing from California to Missouri and vice versa to deliver mail on time!”

True to their word, the first mail arrived on April 14 – the date that was  marked by Google.

“The Pony Express felt like a great game concept to us at Google,” the company said.

“We’ve made time-based games in the past so our new idea was simple. Collect letters, avoid obstacles and aim for the ultimate 100-letter delivery!

“We know everyone is busy these days but the Pony Express needs YOU. And ultimately, whatever happens in life, what’s more important than earning trust and respect from a horse?”

The Pony Express Google doodle project was managed by Greg Capuano, with art direction, character design and animation led by Matt Cruickshank. “Engineering wizardry” was left in the hands of Mark Ivey, Kris Hom and Brian Murray, while “background wonderfulness” was the responsibility of Kevin Laughlin, according to Google.

The Pony Express had letter carriers on horseback following a route between California and Missouri, switching horses at various stations.

The service, in which mail was carried up to 2000 miles in just 12 days, still holds a special place in the imagination and folklore of America.

It lasted only 19 months, ending in November 1861, but it quickly became the stuff of legend in an era before the region was opened up by railroads, and before the arrival of telegraph services heralded a new age of communication.

The Google video below has animator Nate Swinehart explaining a bit about the history of the Pony Express and documenting the doodle process.

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