The other day I decided to order stamps by mail because our local post office didn’t have, well… dog stamps. As I looked through the hundreds of types of stamps they offer on the website, I finally came across the official “Owney the Railway Mail Service Mascot” stamp. These only come in uncut sheets of 200 stamps so I ordered. When they arrived Mary and I were pretty excited to check them out. I also wanted to know more about the story of “Owney” because I had never heard of this little mascot before.
Here is a brief history of “Owney” with references to more information, songs, and storybooks for kids. I hope you enjoy sharing this with others. I think it fits with what we do at Mary’s Dogs Rescue & Adoption.
Owney was abandoned by an Albany postal worker (no name was mentioned) in 1888 and was quickly adopted by the other post office workers working there. He usually slept on the mail bags and when they were moved, Owney went with them. He was considered to be good luck by postal workers, since no train he ever rode on was in a wreck. As his trips grew longer, the postal clerks at Albany became concerned that the dog be identified, and, if necessary returned to them. They bought Owney a collar with a metal tag that read: “Owney, Post Office, Albany, New York” at which point he became the unofficial mascot of the Railway Mail Service.
The dog was later adopted by Railway Mail clerks as their unofficial mascot. They marked his travels by placing tags on his collar. Throughout his life, Owney accumulated an unknown number of tags, tokens, trinkets, and medals; some of which are now on display at the National Postal Museum.
In 1895, Owney made an around-the-world trip, aboard trains and steamships. Starting from Tacoma, Washington, he traveled throughout Asia and across Europe, before returning to Albany. Owney retired from the Railway Mail Service in 1897 due to poor eyesight and old age. However, as a world-traveled dog he was difficult to contain and slipped out of the Albany post office in June 1897.
The exact details of the incident which lead to his death are unclear, but according to the National Postal Museum website, “Owney rode the train one last time before he died.” Newspapers around the country carried the story of Owney’s death. They reported that Owney had been ill, was about 17 years old and had become aggressive in his old age. On July 27, 2011, the United States Postal Service issued a Forever stamp honoring Owney.
Link to National Postal Museum Article
Link to Times Union Article
Link to Wikipedia Article
Link to E-book about “Owney”
Click on arrow for the “Owney Song”