Vintage ResQte

From the Smithsonian Institution comes this very old photo, along with a heartwarming story of a dog who rode the rails:

Owney was a stray dog who wandered into the Albany, New York, post office in 1888. The clerks let him stay the night, and he fell asleep on a pile of empty mailbags. Owney was attracted to the texture or scent of the mailbags and began to follow them, first onto mail wagons and then onto mail trains. Owney began to ride with the bags on Railway Post Office (RPO) train cars across the state, and then the country. The RPO clerks adopted Owney as their unofficial mascot, marking his travels by placing medals and tags from his stops on his collar

Via Flickr Commons, collections of the world’s photo archives.



  1. Quite a big deal to get your picture taken back then. He must have been well loved.

  2. DewiCasGwent says:

    If you look at the flikr page you’ll notice it is one of the Owney collection one wearing his harness with impressive number of tags

  3. What a wonderful story, he must have been some awesome goggie.

  4. Hey! I just bought some Owney forever stamps at the Post Office…now I know who he really is/was. Cool story 🙂

  5. Some beings have exceptionally cool lives!

  6. d’awwww, who’s a good boy!

  7. Awwww… thanks for the story! I buy my stamps online and I always look for animal-themed ones, so I bought some with his picture without any idea of his story. 🙂

  8. Karla Borecky says:

    Yes, Owney has his own stamp, put out by the USPS fairly recently. Get ’em now before they’re all gone!*


    *I am not an agent of he United States Postal Service. But I do like to encourage them when they issue cool stamps!

  9. WendyLady says:


  10. Fird Birfle says:

    LURVE both Owney and the Hovertext !!!!


  11. TrixandSam says:

    Thanks for the link Karla. The Owney stamp is really, really lovely! I always forget that the USPS commissions some great artwork for their stamps. This one is particularly good.

  12. Postmaster General John Wanamaker was one of Owney’s fans. When he learned that the dog’s collar was weighed down by an ever-growing number of tags, he gave Owney a harness on which to display the “trophies.”

    On April 9, 1894, a writer for the Brooklyn Daily Eagle reported that “Nearly every place he stopped Owney received an additional tag, until now he wears a big bunch. When he jogs along, they jingle like the bells on a junk wagon.”

    In June, Owney boarded a mail train for Toledo, Ohio. While he was there, he was shown to a newspaper reporter by a postal clerk. Owney became ill tempered and although the exact circumstances were not satisfactorily reported, Owney died in Toledo of a bullet wound on June 11, 1897. Mail clerks raised funds to have Owney preserved, and he was given 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. Owney can be seen on display in the National Postal Museum’s atrium, wearing his harness and surrounded by several of his tags.

  13. you can see Owney in person at the US Postal Museum in Washington DC. He was stuffed after passing away.

  14. TMI 😥

  15. Oh man, this just ruined my happy buzz.

  16. So sorry……..was not my intension…..His fellow posties loved him very much! To put together enough funds to have him forever memorialized….enough said!

  17. kittens not kids says:

    I wonder if his fondness for the mailbags is like my cats’ passion for lying/sitting/sleeping on suitcases and backpacks?

    Also, he’s *stuffed* o_O ??

  18. I’m not going to think about his death, only his life and the joy he brought to others.

  19. I didn’t mean you, Kim. Just stoopid hate-filled people… And you’re right about focusing on the happy aspects!

  20. skippymom says:

    There are a bunch of children’s books about him. We have a good one at my library.

  21. He has stamps?!? Cool! Hafta get some. (And find something to mail…..)

  22. dawnkeyotie says:

    No one lives forever, but this is still a happy story about tolerance and kindness and adventure. Love this story.

  23. And what is the name? Perhaps I may need to add it to my animal-themed book library…

  24. oh my god ;_;

  25. It’s called A Small Dog’s Big Life, author Kelly.

    Don’t read this if you will get too bummed out:
    An author’s note says that he supposedly bit someone and was put down as a dangerous animal. But it is suggested that the person provoked him, and also he didn’t have any teeth left at the time.
    Sad, but he did have a great life.

  26. Thanks for this! More oldies would be so interesting. I remember seeing a photo postcard once, in an old bookstore in San Francisco, of a very famous (back in the day) dog who had evidently been responsible for saving hotel visitors from a disastrous fire that destroyed the St. Francis Drake Hotel. He was a handsome dude, black and white mutt type, with serious and noble mien. I’ve never forgotten this photograph, and saw it only once over 20 years ago. Wish I’d just bought the card!

  27. Thanks. After reading about it, I may even consider if as a birthday gift for my soon-to-be 9 year old neice. Do you think that would be appropriate?

    While I would love it if life were all sunshine and flowers, I am a realist. I just try not to dwell on bad stuff that I can not do anything about, but rather focus on making my little corner of the world a good place. 🙂

  28. Your niece will love the book. It’s a picture book in epistolary form, and the content is not too little-kid for a 9-year-old.

    I constantly have to drag myself out of aching depression that I can’t save all the animals in the world, and focus on giving the best care and love to the ones I have.

  29. Fleurdamour says:

    It’s impressive he sat still long enough – took forever to get the shot with those old cameras.

  30. Fleurdamour says:

    I guess you could call him a bagabond.

  31. Martha in Washington says:

    @hovertext-and colors hadn’t been invented yet either.

    Wonderful story…the first part anyways. And so glad to hear Owney was so well loved!

  32. This is very cool. I remember seeing Owney and reading his story at the Postal Museum right after it first opened.

  33. Karla Borecky says:

    Oh, I’m so glad you liked it! Apparently everyone who frequents my PO did too, because I got the last one. They sold out like hots cakes. (Green Acres, anyone?)

  34. Love the hovertext as usual NTMTOM! It’s amazing what breeding can do! Of course, my purebreed poodle still looked fuzzy, but maybe he needed a clip.

  35. at one can buy any stamp, not just what is alloted to POs!

  36. “Dogs used to be a lot blurrier in them days” – Mike, you are a riot! Poor old Owney.

  37. Katherine says:

    I love owney! I saw him at the post office museum! also got owney forever stamps!

  38. This my very first time actually being excited about getting stamps from post office. 🙂

  39. I thought dogs and mailmen were natural enemies!

  40. Postal Clerk Linda says:

    Owney is on display at the Smithsonian. Picture of the real (stuffed) Owney is here:|mode=1|tid=2051961

  41. We love Owney at the Smithsonian! He’s been the subject of several articles in our employee newsletter recently. Happy pup!

  42. Sandra Humphrey says:

    I have purchased the Owney stamps. They came out last year. It is great to see an actual picture of him. Thanks so much Cute Overload.

  43. Ok, have tears. A story of human kindness and longings to connect with something CUTE. Love it.

  44. Nikki, you work at the Smithsonian? How cool is that!

  45. I’m so excited that Owney is on Cute Overload! You can follow him on Twitter at @OwneytheDog and on Facebook at Lots more info about the adorable dog can be found at He’s a great little ambassador for the Smithsonian National Postal Museum in DC.

  46. Arf! Thanks for including me on CuteOverload. That piglet might be cute but I have some amazing history. If you want to see more adorbs pictures of me, check ’em out at WOOF!

  47. I LOVE Owney. I live here in DC and went with my family for the first time to the Postal Museum and fell in love with him. I bought a stuffed version and I went to all of the museums and did that penny press thingy and made holes in each one and attached them to his little doggie jacket, JUST like the real Owney. And I’m giving it to my nephew *4* for his b-day this year along with Owney’s story in cute childrens book form.

  48. You can ‘friend’ Owney on Facebook! He has his own page and frequently posts updates for his fans. He just had a makeover (from a professional taxidermist) and kept everyone up to date on the process.

  49. warrior rabbit says:

    There was a famous dog in the early days of San Diego, too (1880s). A stray who called everywhere home, and was loved by everyone. They put his picture on the very fist dog licenses (even though he didn’t have to have one). His name was Bum. There was a book about him; I had it as a kid.

  50. mars mannix says:

    I bought as many forever Owney stamps as the PO would let me.

  51. Aw, thanks so much Lesley! I’m so glad I get to hang out with your nephew. I’m honored!

  52. Thanks, Sandra! There are more adorbs pictures of me here: I must have been pretty famous back in the 1890s because I got my photo taken pretty often.

  53. Watch out, you might become a philatelist! :-0 (Just kidding.)

  54. 🙂 Thanks, Katherine! Woof.

  55. You should come back and check me out! I got makeover and a brand new exhibit. Oh and all the tags I collected on my railway mail travels got polished.

  56. There was also a dog named Dorsey who delivered mail between mining settlements out west not long before I lived.

  57. Yep, Railway Mail clerks adored me. Apparently I was good luck in preventing train wrecks. There’s a story that I would almost never hold still for photographers unless I was sitting on mailbags from the train. Then I’d calm down a bit.

  58. I also have an iPhone app that works with my stamp. It’s pretty cool. No mailing required.

  59. Yeah, I had a pretty sad ending. I think that’s why the staff at the Postal Museum is making sure my “afterlife” isn’t too shabby. I have an exhibit, children’s books, a website, stamps, etc. No, it doesn’t make up for an unhappy ending but it does mean my story doesn’t end there.

  60. There’s also “Owney: A Lucky Dog” by Dirk Wales and a book by Mona Kirby. I’m also getting an e-book that works on the iPad pretty soon. My children’s books mostly focus on the story of my adventures and friendships with Railway Mail clerks–and kids tend to like those elements a lot. Thanks so much for being interested in me and my story. For a little mutt from the 1890s, I certainly am a lucky dog!

  61. 🙂

  62. I saw Owney a long time ago, back when the postal museum was new. That is a most excellent and fluffy makeover he got.