In 1858 John Butterfield of Utica, N.Y. won a government contract of $600,000 a year for six years to carry mail from St Louis to San Francisco twice a week. Butterfield had much experience in the staging business. Born in New York in 1801, he had received little formal education; he had gone into staging, becoming a driver while still in his teens. Through hard work and ability he had risen to ownership of several stagecoach lines in New York. By 1857 he was a prominent businessman and personal friend of the president.
Butterfield, after signing the contract, began working non-stop to ready the service to begin in 1858. His first necessity was hiring experienced frontiersmen and drivers seeking men friendly with the various Indian tribes that would be encountered along the route. Beyond hiring employees, creating the route, and constructing the way stations, Butterfield also had to purchase the horses, mules and stock for his line. He hired superintendents to manage the stations and conductors to sit beside the drivers; conductors were in charge of the coaches; drivers handled the coaches. Each driver had to know his 60-mile stretch of road extremely well because of night travel.
Butterfield famously told his drivers, “Remember boys, nothing on God’s earth must stop the mail!”