WASHINGTON — The mascot that provided good luck to the Railway Mail Service returns after a century after riding the rails and protecting the mail in the form of 60 million Owney the Postal Dog Forever stamps.
To celebrate the news, Owney, a resident of the Smithsonian’s National Postal Museum, is back with a makeover for the opening of a new exhibit that chronicles his adventures. The museum also is announcing an Owney photo look-alike contest. Postal Service Owney related activities will take place at the Museum of Transportation in St. Louis and at the visitors’ center in Albany, N.Y. Events will also take place in Toledo, Ohio; and Tucson, Ariz.
“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. “For almost 10 years, Owney was the much-beloved and well-traveled mascot of the Railway Mail Service.”
Railway clerks believed Owney brought them good luck, since not a single train he rode was in an accident. During his life, Owney traveled by some estimates more than 140,000 miles. He even visited other countries representing the U.S. Post Office.
Joining Gibbons in dedicating the stamp were Allen Kane, director, National Postal Museum; William H. Bond, Owney stamp artist; Dirk Wales, author, and Stephen Kearney, manager, Stamp Services.
“The National Postal Museum is excited to offer many exciting activities and events in celebration of Owney’s new stamp,” said Kane. “And there’s more to come — as we will soon be launching an Owney iPhone application and an Owney iPad interactive e-book, both of which will bring Owney to life.”
The stamp art features an illustration of Owney by artist Bill Bond of Arlington, Va., under the direction of art director Phil Jordan of Falls Church, Va. The illustration depicts Owney in profile, facing left, with many of his famous tags and medals gleaming in the background.
The Owney stamps — like all Forever stamps will always equal the value of the current First-Class Mail one-ounce rate.
Owney: The ‘Barkstory’
In the 1880s, during the height of the Railway Mail Service, clerks in the Albany, NY, 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.
As Owney traveled the country, clerks affixed medals and tags to his collar to document his travels. When John Wanamaker, Postmaster General from 1889 to 1893, heard that Owney was overburdened with tags, he gave him a special harness to display them all.