I have been smitten with this museum object since the day I laid eyes on it. What could you not love about a mascot dog? Especially one from the postal service?
As soon as I knew Owney’s story I loved this little mutt even more.
In 1888 Owney wandered into a post office in Albany, NY. The postal workers adopted him and Owney began following mail bags and Railway Post Office trains. Train wrecks were common at this time. But, trains with Owney on them were always safe. The “tramp mail dog,” as he was sometimes called, became a good luck charm and the unofficial mascot of the Railway Mail Service.
Everywhere Owney traveled postal workers attached tags and medals to mark his travels. Eventually the postmaster presented him with a harness to hold them all. Owney even had a tag that said “Owney, Post Office, Albany, NY” so he always made his way home. The canine traveled all over the United States, and to Europe and Asia. In the late 19th century Owney was the most famous pup in the country.
In 1897 Owney died in Toledo, Ohio. Postal workers raised funds to preserve Owney and today he is on display in the Smithsonian National Postal Museum in Washington, D.C.
Owney has been the subject of films and books. He has even been on a postage stamp.
Owney spent some time off display in 2011 for preservation. You can read more about it on the Smithsonian National Postal Museum Blog and learn more about taxidermy and museum preservation.