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The San Antonio and San Diego mail line (The Jackass) received its nickname after being insulted in the San Francisco papers in 1859. I am trying to find out when the association to mule back travel started.
I believe that line used mules to pull their stagecoaches through the Arizona and New Mexico deserts, hence the name. The route was taken over by Butterfield around 1859-ish, don't have my references here to get the exact date.
Deconstructing The Jackass Mail Route--Richard Frajola and Floyd Risvold
The term jackass has been altered over the years. In the 1850's it was used generally in stories relating mostly to politicians. Rarely was someone called a jackass as this was like calling someone a liar. It could get you shot. Moody's Stagecoach West states the line got it's nickname because of the association with mules. 1969 Now I'm starting to see references to the editor jokingly referring to the line. Our language has changed. In a few more years I guess the story will be some practical jokers were pulling a prank on the line.
This was a popular term used by many frieghing outfits for using mule teams. I first heard it referring to a western line out of Salt Lake to California;
Jackass Mail 1854 to 1860 George Chorpenning was the first merchant to use the Overland Route for carrying freight, passengers and mail between Salt Lake City and Sacramento California. His service was nicknamed the "Jackass Mail" because he used teams of mules to pull the wagons over a route pioneered by famed Utah explorer Howard Egan. Just establishing the route was a major endeavor involving the scratching out of a rough trail and the construction of stations every twenty miles over a distance of nearly 700 miles. The Fish Springs station was only a thatched shed but did offer weary drivers and passengers over night accommodations
Fascinating article. Thanks for posting the link.
A sort of Jackass Mail is still operant-I received 3 1890's brown wax cylinder records in a priority box and they arrived broken and the box looked as if it was run over by the mail truck.Where does the U S P S get these people?I'd rather trust the mules!
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