It’s official: Owney the postal dog is getting his own forever stamp.
The U.S. Postal Service will commemorate Owney, the canine mascot of the Railway Mail Service, on a first-class 44-cent forever stamp. The official First-Day-of-Issue dedication ceremony will take place at 11 a.m. July 27 at the Smithsonian’s National Postal Museum in Washington, D.C. The event is free and open to the public.
Owney was a stray who was taken in by Albany, N.Y., postal workers in 1888. The terrier mix grew fond of riding in postal trains, which was a dangerous business in those days. According to the National Postal Museum in Washington, D.C., more than 80 mail clerks were killed in train wrecks and more than 2,000 were injured between 1890 and 1900.
No train with Owney aboard was ever involved in an accident. Owney was considered a good-luck charm by postal employees, who made him their unofficial mascot.
As Owney traveled the country, postal clerks affixed medals and tags to his collar to document his travels. When John Wanamaker, U.S. postmaster general from 1889 to 1893, heard that Owney was overburdened with tags, he gave him a special dog-sized jacket to display them all.
An 1895 article in The New York Times described the typical start of one of Owney’s journeys. “When the mail is sent to the station, Owney jumps on the wagon, and stays there until the last bag is thrown into the car. If he feels like taking a journey, he then jumps aboard the car, barks good-bye, and away he goes. Once on the train he is the guest of the clerks at the office along the road.”
In August 1895, Owney traveled around the world, sailing out of Tacoma, Wash., on a steamer bound for Hong Kong. Upon Owney’s return during Christmas week, the Los Angeles Times reported that the dog had visited Asia, North Africa and the Middle East.
Another reporter claimed the Emperor of Japan had awarded the dog a medal bearing the Japanese coat of arms. Owney’s triumphant return to America was covered by newspapers nationwide.
Owney died in Toledo, Ohio, on June 11, 1897, and the Washington Post eulogized him as “one of the most famous dogs that ever lived.”
After Owney’s demise, mail clerks raised funds to have Owney’s body preserved. Owney has been on display at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Postal Museum since 1993, in a case that includes some of his hundreds of medals and tags.
To learn more about Owney, visit the National Postal Museum website.