Continuing the theme of our last post, here’s another dog stamp from our collection. It’s a U.S. “forever” stamp commemorating Owney the Postal Dog.
During the late 1880s, a dog, likely a terrier mix, appeared in the Post Office in Albany, New York, where clerks took a liking to him and named him Owney. Fond of riding in postal wagons, Owney followed mailbags onto trains, where Railway Mail Service employees considered him their good-luck charm. As Owney traveled the country, clerks affixed medals and tags to his collar to document his travels, and Postmaster General John Wanamaker gave him a special dog-sized jacket to help him display them all. Owney later toured the world by steamer and became an icon of American postal lore. His adventures highlight the historical importance of the Railway Mail Service, and today he enjoys a place of honor at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Postal Museum in Washington, D.C.
The National Postal Museum has additional information about Owney.
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 tags.
They also have a video with the information and a few photos of Owner. The pictures of all the tags on his harness is interesting.