At the end of the 19th century the US Mail traveled by trains crisscrossing the nation. Riding with the mail was Owney, a once-stray terrier that found a home with the Albany Post Office in New York, and became likely the most well-traveled dog of his day.
The post office in Albany gave him a collar and tags to identify his official status as mail dog, and soon other post offices he visited added new tags to his collar. It is said that he traveled to all 48 contiguous states, and that he accumulated some 1,017 tags in his life. Today, the Smithsonian has 372 tags in their collection.
In 1895 he left the United States on a four-month-long around-the-world trip, accompanying international mail deliveries. His international exploits were covered in newspapers in several countries.
During his life he was photographed and honored many times by the Postal Service and in the popular press. Following his death in 1897, mail clerks raised the money for his remains to be preserved as the mascot of the US Postal Service and he was first displayed at the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair.
He was later donated to the Smithsonian National Postal Museum, where he remains a popular display along with many of his tags and other artifacts. A little know fact about Owney is that his taxidermy needed to be patched up and parts of him were replaced with some of his animal brethren leaving Owney with a rabbits foot and a pigs ear.
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