During the early days of the frontier, a letter took months to travel from the Midwest to California.
But several developments soon made communication much faster.
These methods proved slow and expensive, and they provided limited access to western lands.
The railroad, or "iron horse," became a vital new travel option, especially after the 1860's.
In April 1860, a mail service called the pony express began carrying mail between St. The service's horseback riders usually made their long journey in about 10 days (see ).
The telegraph soon ended the need for the pony express.
Such companies as Montgomery Ward of Chicago could ship goods to westerners who had ordered them through the companies' mail order catalogs. In the 1880's, for example, wealthy easterners began boarding trains to spend time on dude ranches, which provided them a brief taste of western ranch life.
New forms of communication also transformed the West.
Yet in the 1840's, immigrants to the West saw most of the region as an obstacle, not a destination.
They feared the area's vast deserts, rugged mountain ranges, and many Indian tribes.