Mutts life celebrated

A mutt, famous in his day more than 100 years ago, is commemorated this week in the form of a new stamp and an updated museum exhibit.

In the 1880s, during the height of the Railway Mail Service, clerks in the Albany, N.Y., post office took a liking to a mixed terrier named Owney. Fond of riding in postal wagons, Owney followed mailbags onto trains and soon was known as a good-luck charm to Railway Mail Service employees who made him their unofficial mascot. Working in the Railway Mail Service was highly dangerous. According to the National Postal Museum, more than 80 mail clerks were killed in train wrecks and more than 2,000 were injured between 1890 and 1900. However, it was said that no train ever met with trouble while Owney was aboard.

When Owney died in 1897, mail clerks raised money to preserve their beloved mascot. Now a taxidermy specimen, Owney was sent to the Post Office Department’s building in Washington, D.C., and was transferred to the Smithsonian Institution in 1911. Owney has been on display for most of the past 100 years, 17 at the National Postal Museum.

The museum has revamped its exhibit chronicling Owney’s adventures, and has announced an Owney photo look-alike contest.

"With his new stamp and through the efforts of the National Postal Museum, Owney’s legacy will transcend time, becoming as much a part of the Postal Service of the 21st century as he was more than 100 years ago," said Mary Anne Gibbons, Postal Service general counsel and executive vice president.


During his life, Owney traveled by some estimates more than 140,000 miles. He even visited other countries representing the U.S. Post Office.

The Owney stamps are Forever stamps, so they will always equal the value of the current First-Class Mail one-ounce rate.

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