A sterling spoon depicting Owney the postal dog. Photo provided by Ed
"Owney, posed here with a letter carrier, was a scruffy mutt who became
a regular fixture at the Albany, New York, post office in 1888. His
owner was likely a postal clerk who let the dog walk him to work. Owney
was attracted to the texture or scent of the mailbags and when his
master moved away, Owney stayed with his new mail clerk friends. He
soon began to follow mailbags. At first, he followed them onto mail
wagons and then onto mail trains. Owney began to ride with the bags on
Railway Post Office (RPO) train cars across the state . . . and then
the country! In 1895 Owney made an around-the-world trip, traveling
with mailbags on trains and steamships to Asia and across Europe,
before returning to Albany.
Railway mail clerks considered the dog a good luck charm. At a time
when train wrecks were all too common, no train Owney rode was ever in
a wreck. The Railway mail clerks adopted Owney as their unofficial
mascot, marking his travels by placing medals and tags on his collar.
Each time Owney returned home to Albany, the clerks there saved the
Postmaster General John Wanamaker was one of Owney's fans. When he
learned that the dog's collar was weighed down by an ever-growing
number of tags, he gave Owney a harness on which to display the
On April 9, 1894, a writer for the Brooklyn Daily Eagle reported that
"Nearly every place he stopped Owney received an additional tag, until
now he wears a big bunch. When he jogs along, they jingle like the
bells on a junk wagon."
In June, Owney boarded a mail train for Toledo, Ohio. While he was
there, he was shown to a newspaper reporter by a postal clerk. Owney
became ill tempered and although the exact circumstances were not
satisfactorily reported, Owney died in Toledo of a bullet wound on June
11, 1897. Mail clerks raised funds to have Owney preserved, and he was
given to the Post Office Department's headquarters in Washington, D.C.
In 1911, the department transferred Owney to the Smithsonian
Institution, where he has remained ever since. Owney can be seen on
display in the National Postal Museum's atrium, wearing his harness and
surrounded by several of his tags."
Information furnished by the Postal Museum
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