The Holy Bible, Containing the Old and New Testaments, Translated Out of the Original Tongues; and With the Former Translations Diligently Compared and Revised. New York: American Bible Society, 1857 (New Testament title page dated 1857). Thick pocket-sized volume (5.5 x 3.5 inches, 139 x 89 mm.), bound in eights. 1,278 double-columned pages. In original custom leather binding, with a series of decorative borders and ovoid shapes blind-stamped to boards, and decorative blind-stamping and gilt lettering on spine. "PRESENTED BY / RUSSELL, MAJORS & WADDELL / 1858" in gilt at center of front board. Leather binding quite rubbed with some loss of leather at spine ends and extremities. Gilt lettering rubbed. Repairs to joints. Intermittent foxing. Over-opened a page 590/591 and quite tender. Biblical notations in pencil to verso of New Testament title page. Ink numbers on rear pastedown. With names of three owners on front free endpaper: Hettie Jane Bruce, W. D. Fletcher, and Clara Fletcher. At bottom of page is written "Hettie Jane Bruce's book / 1858." A complete copy of a "Pony Express Bible" in its original, though worn, binding. In generally very good condition. Very rare, with very few extant copies located.
William Russell, Alexander Majors, and William Waddell -- the three founders of the Pony Express -- began their partnership in 1854 with the formation of Russell, Majors & Waddell, a large freighting and stage business which crisscrossed the Western frontier, providing freight, mail, and passenger service. In 1860, the company was contracted by the U.S. government to begin a fast mail delivery service between St. Joseph, Missouri and Sacramento. This service was The Pony Express, the legendary Wild West mail service with individual mounted horsemen riding in relays to cover vast distances in a short time, operating under the slogan "The mail must go through." The Pony Express service lasted a mere nineteen months, but it has become a mainstay in the lore and legend of the American West. Partner Alexander Majors was a staunchly religious man who not only decreed that the Sabbath be observed as a day of rest for his employees, but who also insisted that his workers take an oath promising to abstain from using profane language, from drinking to excess, and from gambling. He presented his employees -- including the Pony Express riders -- with a custom-bound Bible. Over the years, this Bible has come to be known as the "Pony Express Bible." Each Bible had the words "Presented by Russell, Majors & Waddell 1858" stamped in gilt on its front cover. The Bible offered here is one of those "Pony Express Bibles," a rare and sought-after artifact of the Old West.
The first owner's name in the Bible is that of Hettie Jane Bruce. Census records show that Hetty [sic] Bruce was born in 1846 in Missouri, making her 12 years old in 1858. The Bible appears to have been passed from her to her son, William Dean ("W. D.") Fletcher, then to his sister Clara Fletcher. The Bible has remained in the family descended from Hettie Jane Bruce until now. A historic, if well-worn, copy of the supremely rare 1858 Russell, Majors & Waddell "Pony Express Bible," passed down through generations and kept in the family of its original owner for over a century and a half. Estimate: $10,000 - up. Included in Heritage Auctions’ Rare Books Auction #6064, February 8-9, 2012, in Beverly Hills.