Owney

Topical Reference Page
Owney the dog with tags

Owney 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 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.

Related Blogs

Countdown to Owney (#2)

As you may have heard, on July 27, 2011, Owney will be honored with his very own postage stamp. To celebrate this great occasion, this is the second in a series of blogs celebrating some of Owney’s tags.

Countdown to Owney (#1)

Owney spent most of his time riding on mail trains. Clerks and others added medals and tags to the dog’s collar. These trinkets showed the many different places and people he visited. Some tags were made just for him, even if sometimes they spelled his name wrong.

Heavy Metal Mascot

In order to tan and preserve animal furs, skins and other textiles, it was common practice in the 1800’s to use soaps and compounds made of arsenic, mercury, lead and other heavy metals. Arsenic was considered a great insecticide and some say it even smelled pretty nice, too. Scientists saw the application of these metals as improvements to the short-lived results of such “preservatives” as herbs and spices. However, we all now know the health hazards associated with accumulative and direct contact to arsenic, lead and mercury (ever wonder how the Mad Hatter got his famous moniker?), so fast-forward 200 years. What does this mean for staff working with natural history specimens in museum collections and specifically for Owney the dog and his handlers?

Counting Owney's Tags

Today Owney, (yes, a real dog) will take a rare excursion away from his post and will return to his usual spot tomorrow morning. The unofficial mascot of the Railway Mail Service is having his tags counted.

Owney Collection Objects

Discover all the Owney objects in our collection, including the many tags and the souvenir spoon commissioned by a group of Cleveland, Ohio, postal clerks for Owney.

Toy Owney the Dog For Sale at Museum Shop

Now you can buy an Owney! Approximate size is 12 x 6 x 6 inches. 
To order, please contact the Museum Shop.

Owney's Facebook Page

Owney shares photos, fun facts, answers questions, and more. Find out where Owney traveled on today's date in history. Many of Owney's posts are useful for classroom teachers.