Owney, Stuffed Dog Postal Mascot
Owney, also known as "Globe-trotter," was a mutt abandoned by a postal clerk at a Albany, New York post office in 1888. Postal workers bundled him in mail bags to keep him warm, and grateful Owney began his career as the unofficial postal system dog mascot.
Over the next decade Owney traveled by train over 140,000 miles, once even circling the globe, following postal professionals wherever they traveled. He was outfitted with a vest to which mail clerks would pin baggage tags with each city name. "American postal workers were his family," explained the curator of the National Postal Museum. "He liked anyone who smelled like a mail bag."
On June 11, 1897, a postal worker in Toledo, Ohio was showing off Owney -- who was chained in the post office basement -- to a local newspaper reporter (or photographer). Owney, who was an old dog by now, was agitated and barking. He bit the postal worker on the hand. A retired postmaster and historian told us that the postal worker "spread the word that Owney was mad, and the Toledo postmaster summoned a police officer, who shot him, thus ending the career of the famous little dog. These are the facts."
More on Owney's end is offered by Wayne Escott: "While a postal employee was showing Owney's tags to a local reporter in Toledo, Ohio, Owney turned and bit the postal employee, who subsequently died. The postal employee who died from the bite left behind a widow and a one-year old son (my grandfather)."
Despite his one fatal gaff, Owney was still a beloved dog. Mail clerks raised money to have him stuffed and put on display in a glass case -- first at Post Office Headquarters in Washington, DC; then at the 1904 St. Louis World's Fair; then at the Smithsonian; then in Philadelphia; then back at the Smithsonian.
In 1993 he was moved to the new National Postal Museum in Washington, DC. He can still be seen there today, wearing his small doggy vest bristling with some of the over 1,000 medals and tags that he accumulated in his travels.
In 2011, Owney was deemed worthy of depiction on a US postage stamp.