Western Expresses were private individuals or companies that operated west of the Mississippi River and carried letter mail between cities, mining camps, and other settlements. This group of companies became prominent after 1849. Letter mail was handled by them to areas and towns that did not have established post offices and hence the carriage did not contravene any postal laws that prohibited mail carried privately on postal routes.
The private express companies operating on the West coast were the pioneers in the rapid transport of mails in the period before the completion of the trans-continental rail road in 1869. This exhibit is limited to private mail usages of the ten cent stamps and ten cent postal entires between 1855 and 1862. The usage of ten cent stamps and entires was very limited because the domestic postal rates in effect only required ten cent rates for letters sent over 3,000 miles and for some foreign rates. Private mails were required to be enclosed in government stamped entires.