Owney, Mascot of the Railway Mail Service

On an autumn day in 1888, a shaggy pup took his first step toward becoming a postal legend when he crept into the Albany, New York, Post Office. Postal employees allowed him to stay and named him Owney.

 

At first, Owney stayed close to the Post Office, but he soon began riding mail wagons to the train depot and then rode the railway mail car down to New York City and back to Albany. As Owney traveled farther, his friends at the Albany Post Office feared he might wander too far away to find his way home again so they purchased a leather collar with a tag reading “Owney, Post Office, Albany, N.Y.” The railway mail service clerks recorded Owney’s travels by attaching metal baggage tags to his collar to identify the rail lines he traveled on.

 

He was soon weighed down by his collection of tags. Postmaster General John Wanamaker presented Owney with a little jacket to distribute their weight more evenly.

 

Owney took to traveling farther and staying away longer, eventually visiting Mexico, Canada, Japan, China, Singapore, Suez, Algiers, and the Azores.

 

While being shown off to an Ohio newspaper reporter, Owney bit the postal clerk who was handling him. The postmaster had Owney put down on June 11, 1897. Railway mail clerks chipped in money to have a taxidermist preserve Owney’s body, which then was sent to postal headquarters in Washington, D.C., for exhibit.

 

In 1911, the Post Office Department entrusted Owney to the Smithsonian Institution. Since 1993, Owney has been part of the National Postal Museum in Washington, D.C.