Friday, January 30, 2009
Owney the Taxidermied Railroad Dog
Owney was a stray terrier mutt who, back in 1888, wandered into the Albany, New York, post office.
The clerks, too busy to chase him away, let him stay and he eventually fell asleep on some mailbags and became attached to the smell or texture of the satchels.
Owney began to follow the mailbags and soon he followed a few of them right out the door to the train station.
Not stopping there, he hitched a ride with a few trains and he eventually traveled with the mail bags not only all across the state, but all across the country, collecting little tags and trinkets on his collar as he went.
In 1895 Owney somehow found his way on a boat to Alaska, and from there he traveled around the world, first to Japan, and then through the Suez Canal to Europe, before returning back to Albany.
See the video at the National Postage Museum web site.
On June 11, 1897, Owney boarded a mail train for Toledo, Ohio. While he was there, he was shown to a newspaper reporter by a postal clerk.
The story is a little vague from there on out, but apparently Owney became ill-tempered, bit someone, and was somehow shot for his troubles.
Distraught mail clerks raised funds to have Owney taxidermied, and he was presented as a slightly-bizarre mascot to the Post Office Department's headquarters in Washington, D.C.
In 1911, the department transferred Owney to the Smithsonian Institution, where he has remained ever since.
Today Owney is on display in the atrium of the National Postal Museum, which is located in the old Post Office building, next to Union Station, in Washington, D.C.