October 10, 1858, was a special morning in San Francisco, California, although the residents initially ignored its uniqueness. No one greeted the first westbound Butterfield Overland Mail coach; perhaps they didn’t expect it to arrive so soon. The run was made from St. Louis to San Francisco in “just twenty-three days, twenty-three hours and a half” according to through passenger Waterman L. Ormsby. The next day, though, the press caught on, word spread, and the news “‘caused an immense excitement’” according to the San Francisco Bulletin. The editor wrote “‘The importance of this enterprise cannot be too highly appreciated. California is by it bound to the rest of the Union. We are not hereafter to depend on the caprices of a foreign government for mail facilities with the East, nor have we to be subjected to the danger of the sea. Immigration will soon pour into the vast and rich country between us and the Atlantic States. The telegraph and railroad will soon, as a matter of course, follow. California will ere long be the leading state of the Union and San Francisco will occupy that proud position in the commercial world which nature has designed.’”
The above passage is a reminder that unifying forces, such as the Butterfield Overland Mail, were occurring while sectional tensions were increasing. Only three days before the arrival of the Overland Mail, the fourth Lincoln-Douglas Debate took place.
All quotes are from: Roscoe P. Conkling and Margaret B. Conkling, The Butterfield Overland Mail, 1857-1869 (Glendale, CA: The Arthur H. Clark Co., 1947), v. 2:316-318.