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  • Writer's pictureCheryl Anne Stapp

Railway Mail Mascot

Owney may have been just a dog, but 19th century newspapers across the nation delighted in reporting his world-traveling odyssey as if he were a person. On April 20, 1893, the San Francisco Call devoted an entire column to the arrival in their city of a scruffy terrier mix known as the mascot of every postal worker in America. The celebrated canine began his postal career in 1888 when he showed up at the Albany, New York, post office as a homeless puppy cuddled up on a pile of old mail bags. Adopted by the postal clerks, Owney felt safe atop the soft piles of mail pouches on the wagons that moved the mail to the local railroad depot. Evidently sensing that guarding the mail was his responsibility, he began accompanying it on trains and ships, wearing a collar for identification. Eventually the Postmaster General provided Owney with a special harness-like jacket to hold all the leather and metal bagging tags, hotel key checks, and badges he acquired as souvenirs at each place he visited. In all, he traveled over 143,000 miles. Warmly welcomed wherever he went, Owney received a silver medal from a Los Angeles kennel club for “the best-traveled dog to attend their show,” a half dollar inscribed by San Francisco’s Pacific Kennel Club, and many other similar honors nationwide. “No dog was ever more decorated or petted than he,” said the San Francisco Call. “He will defend a mail sack against anybody but a postal clerk. He is known as being one-eyed, which for a Bohemian adds luster to his reputation. Owney’s stay in this city will be only for a few days, as he leaves shortly for Mexico.” #railroads #mailservice

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