By Allen Kane, Former Director, National Postal Museum

A Clerk's Best Friend

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Brooklyn, New York Owney tag

Owney was a stray mutt who wandered into the Albany, New York, post office in 1888. The clerks let him stay when he fell asleep on some mailbags. Owney was attracted to the texture or scent of the mailbags and followed them when they were placed on a Railway Mail Service train. Owney began to ride with the bags on trains across the state, and then the country. In 1895 Owney made an around-the-world trip, traveling with mailbags on trains and steamships to Asia and across Europe, before returning to Albany.

Railway mail clerks adopted Owney as their unofficial mascot, marking his travels by placing medals and tags on his collar. On occasion, people presented Owney with tags that dogs would naturally have, such as this one from Brooklyn, New York. It is a dog license tag, number 5758. The date, 1891, indicates it may be one of the earliest tags in the collection.