Owney, postal dog and Albany ambassador

owney with his medals

Owney was apparently some sort of terrier mix.

Just before the beginning of the last century, Albany was known all around the world. Because of a dog.

No, really. It's true.

From the Smithsonian photo collection:

Owney was a stray dog who wandered into the Albany, New York, post office in 1888. The clerks let him stay the night, and he fell asleep on a pile of empty mailbags. Owney was attracted to the texture or scent of the mailbags and began to follow them, first 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. The RPO clerks adopted Owney as their unofficial mascot, marking his travels by placing medals and tags from his stops on his collar.

Owney in profileOwney accumulated so many medals that they started to weigh down his neck. The Postmaster General heard about this problem and ordered a special vest be made so that Owney could wear his medals and still get around.

In 1895, Owney was sent on a trip around the world -- in part via registered mail (classification: "Registered Dog Package") -- and made it back in a little more than four months, a feat which was front page news.

The New York Times described Owney as "[not] a handsome dog, but he has excellent qualities, and is kindly and intelligent."

The travel bug eventually did Owney in. After being sent back to Albany for retirement in 1897, Owney slipped onto a train and wound up in Toledo where he met his death. There are conflicting reports about what happened, but apparently he was being mistreated during an interview and he bit a reporter. The postmaster there decided that Owney had become a danger and had the dog put down.

Upon hearing of his death, postal clerks all around the country chipped in money for an Owney memorial. But how do you memorialize such a special dog? Plaque? Statue? Commemorative mail bag? Even better: they had him stuffed. He's now on display in the National Postal Museum's atrium.

More photos of Owney from the Smithsonian's collection on Flickr.

Comments

I have an albany dog tag dated 1897, shaped of the maltise cross #1485.....would like to see if there are any connection

I hope you enjoy the article I wrote about my hero, Owney!
http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/2904166/owney_americas_beloved_postal_dog.html?cat=37”

You could not ask for a better ambassador,no political rhetoric!He was courageous and trusted those who loved him,give your heart to a dog and you will never be let down and forever loved,something most humans lack in capabilities!Could a person be as trusting as Owney?I would like to think so,but alas,my years,which there has been quite a few,has left me doubting,I once asked a theologian,do you think their will be dogs in heaven,upon ,his reply was,no,i replied,if not,I do not think i would care to go!

A black Lab strayed onto my porch one nite and I fed him chicken 'n' rice cuz that's all I had. He stayed, made friends with my six cats, and I named him MacDuff, which means ( I think) Son of a black stranger. Duff had been mistreated and had heartworms, but he was with us for two glorious years and made us, friends, and family members LOL all the time. My heart smiles when I think of him.

There is a special stamp commemorating Owney that's coming out very soon. Ask about it at your local post office (if it's still open). They have posters advertising it already.

I bought some Owney stamps today! In fact, they made me curious so I was doing some research about him. This is the best article I've read about him so far. Thanks for lots of great info!

Just as always.. the government kills the good guys...

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