Yesterday, to commemorate a pup who provided good luck to the Railway Mail Service, the United States Postal Service issued 60 million Owney the Postal Dog Forever stamps.
The Smithsonian’s National Postal Museum is debuting a new exhibit that chronicles his adventures and announcing an Owney photo look-alike contest. In conjunction with the contest, the museum is also issuing an Owney iPhone application and an Owney iPad interactive e-book.
Who is Owney, Anyway?
According to the United States Postal Service press release:
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…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.
I’m as big a sucker for a cute terrier mix as the next person — maybe more so (right, Frankie)? And I’m sure I’ll buy a poopload of those stamps (though I’ll probably pass on the phone app and the e-book).
So what’s my problem?
The USPS is issuing 60 million stamps. That would suggest to me that a LOT of people like dogs — and are willing to spend money on images of them. People also like railroads.
I’d bet they’d spend even more money if they could bring actual dogs on actual railroads, rather than commemorating one historic dog that got to ride the rails. I know, I have a thing about this, and have written passionately about it before; see How Amtrak Could Become Solvent. But I’m not the only one who feels this way; see comments to How Amtrak Could Become Solvent.
WAKE UP! We want to travel with our pets and are willing to pay. The airlines made it happen. Why can’t Amtrak? (Please, no anti-government rants.)
Owney’s Mysterious End: Shot and Stuffed!
According to the Postal Museum’s site:
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. [emphasis mine]
Owney was shot? That doesn’t seem right. And the picture accompanying this passage would seem to confirm that “preserved” means “stuffed.” But hey, if it was good enough for Roy Rogers’ horse, Trigger… (I’m a bit confused by that article, incidentally; I saw Trigger in Victorville, California. Then he moved to Branson. What’s he doing being auctioned off in NYC?)
Yet Another Reason to Vote For Me for the Petties
I don’t mean my perverse sense of humor, though if you were at all receptive to the last section…go for it.
No, lest you think I’m not sufficiently excited about the Owney stamp, I want you to know that the $1,000 that I will donate to the charity of my choice will go to shelter that is participating in — and benefiting from — an Owney-related event. That’s right, the oft-mentioned Humane Society of Southern Arizona is hosting an Owney look-alike contest along with the USPS and Spectrum Printing; see details here.
So if you don’t do it for me or for little diabetic Frankie — what can I say; I’m pulling out all the stops now — do it for the people who are giving Owney his due respect. And after you vote — only two more days until voting ends on July 29! — send an email to Amtrak.
For Owney’s sake.