Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.
Many think this is the official motto of the United States the Postal Service, but in truth, it isn’t. The Postal Service has no “official” motto, but this old and popular saying is certainly fitting, even if it’s not official. But did you know the U.S. Postal Service does have a mascot?
Move over Lassie and Rin Tin Tin. Those mythical celluloid canine heroes had nothing on Owney, the Postal Dog. Owney was a scruffy, and by many accounts, cranky little mutt that wandered into the post office in Albany, New York, in 1888 and decided he liked the place. Actually, it wasn’t the post office itself that he seemed to like as much as the heavy canvas mail sacks. He plopped himself down on a pile of them in a corner and made himself at home. It is assumed that post office employees probably tried to shoo the stray cur away, but Owney wasn’t having any of that nonsense and eventually they just accepted that fact that he was there to stay.
Well, not exactly. One day Owney hopped onto a railroad baggage car that was carrying mailbags and happily rode off into the sunset. And from that day on, he lived on the rails, riding all over the country on trains that were hauling the mail.
Back in those days, when most mail traveled by trains, railroad accidents were frequent and often tragic. But not if Owney was on board. Not one train he was riding on ever had a crash or jumped the tracks. Before long, railroaders began to consider the little dog a good luck charm, and he was welcome to ride wherever he wanted to.
Becoming a celebrity, Owney’s picture appeared in newspapers from coast to coast and border to border. At each stop he made, mail clerks would attach a metal tag with the name of their post office on it to his collar. Before long, there were so many of the tags that Owney jingled everywhere he went, and when their weight became too much for his collar, a special vest was made to accommodate even more of them.
In 1895, Owney was sent on a trip around the world as a sort of a goodwill ambassador for the U.S. Postal Service, gaining new fans in Japan, Asia, and the Middle East before coming back to the United States.
But not everyone was infatuated with the sometimes surly little mutt. Chicago’s Postmaster was not a fan of Owney. In fact, some say he despised the dog and wanted him banned from the rails.
Another person that apparently had no love for Owney was Rudolph Brand, the postmaster in Toledo, Ohio. When the dog showed up there on June 11, 1897, Brand ordered him tied to a post to keep him out of mischief.
There are different stories about what happened next, but one says that a newspaper reporter and his cameraman came to take a picture of Owney, and when a postal clerk started to untie him, Owney bit his hand. The postmaster called the police and said Owney was a dangerous nuisance and demanded they do something about it.
Again, there are different stories about what happened next. Some say that a Toledo policeman shot Owney while he was still tied to the post. Others say he was taken into an alley and killed. Yet another account says Owney had gone mad from distemper or rabies and had to be put down, though few believed that. No matter how or why it happened, Owney the Postal Dog was gone.
There was nationwide outrage when the news got out about Owney’s death. The Chicago Tribune labeled it an execution. People demanded the Toledo postmaster and the police officer who pulled the trigger be fired.
Postal clerks, many of whom held a special affection for the little mongrel, contributed money to pay a taxidermist to have Owney stuffed, and for years his body was displayed around the country. Now on permanent display in a special glass case at the Smithsonian’s National Postal Museum in Washington, D.C., people still come from far and wide to see Owney.
And though the traveling postal dog has been gone for over 120 years now, his reputation still lives on. In 2011, the United States Postal Service issued a commemorative stamp with Owney’s likeness on it, and since it was a “Forever” stamp, Owney still shows up in post offices nationwide from time to time.
Congratulations Jim Tidball, winner of our drawing for an autographed copy of Crazy Days In Big Lake. This is the fourth book in the series and one of the leftover books with the original cover, but the story is the same. We had 86 responses this time around. Stay tuned, a new contest starts soon.
Thought For The Day – These days when we have a couple of adult beverages, it’s Metamucil and Ensure.