The national collection illustrates and invites research into United States philately and postal operations. It contains prestigious postal issues and specialized collections, archival postal documents and three-dimensional objects that trace the evolution of the postal services.
The National Postal Museum is divided into galleries that explore America's postal history from colonial times to the present. Visitors learn how mail has been transported and the wondrous diversity of postage stamps.
The Museum supports a wide variety of interdisciplinary research projects which address topics of importance such as current and future postal operations, as well as philatelic and postal history. Our efforts are a resource and point of reference for research and wider investigation by historians throughout the United States and the world.
One of the most popular exhibits in the National Postal Museum is the story of Owney, the scruffy mutt who became the unofficial mascot of the Railway Mail Service in the late 19th century. Owney’s unusual life and wide-spread travels have inspired several children’s books. Elementary schools across the United States continue to use the story of Owney as a way to connect their students with those in other states by sending stuffed toy dogs from school to school through the mail accompanied by messages from students to one another.
The Smithsonian National Postal Museum has brought the true story of Owney to “life” with beautiful animation, a fun (and historically accurate) story, the deep grandfatherly baritone of Trace Adkins, and a catchy theme song. Owney: Tales from the Rails is available as both an iPad app on the Apple iTunes Store and an e-Book on the museum's website.
Owney was a scruffy mutt who became a regular fixture at the Albany, New York, post office in 1888. His owner was likely a postal clerk who let the dog walk him to work. 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.
Railway mail clerks considered the dog Owney a good luck charm. At a time when train wrecks were all too common, no train Owney rode was ever in a wreck. The Railway mail clerks adopted Owney as their unofficial mascot, marking his travels by placing medals and tags on his collar. Each time Owney returned home to Albany, the clerks there saved the tags.
On July 27, 2011, one of the museum’s most interesting objects was commemorated with a United States postage stamp. During his lifetime a scruffy mutt named Owney was the nation’s most famous canine. From 1888 until his death in 1897 Owney rode with Railway Mail Service clerks and mailbags all across the nation.
Art of the Stamp: Owney the Postal Dog features Bill Bonds’s original painting of Owney that was produced for the stamp. It is accompanied by 6 sketches illustrating various poses of Owney that Mr. Bonds created as he developed his final portrait. In addition, 5 tags that were given to Owney on his many travels and selected by Bonds as background for his stamp art, are also included.
The release of the Owney commemorative postage stamp is a great reason to celebrate stamps, mail, and American history. Whether you are a postmaster, part of a stamp club, or scout leader, you can help kids get into the fun by planning an Owney celebration in your community. This page will help you do it!
Our Blog is dedicated to sharing behind-the-scenes stories, thoughts, and interesting discussion about our museum and our renowned collection. Owney has been the subject of several blog posts including the ongoing series, "Countdown to Owney," which is in celebration of the 2011 Owney postage stamp.
The latest research into Owney’s life and times is revealed in “The Post Office’s Best Friend,” an article written by National Postal Museum Historian, Nancy A. Pope, in the April 2011 issue ofPostmaster’s Advocate.
A group of postal employees raised money for Owney to be preserved. In 1904 the Department included Owney in its section of the World’s Fair exposition in St. Louis, Missouri. In honor of Owney’s presence at the fair, a group of Cleveland, Ohio, postal clerks commissioned a souvenir spoon design for Owney. The design, produced by the Webb C. Ball Company, shows a railway train car in the bowl of the spoon and an illustration of Owney and his name on the handle.
The National Postal Museum is proud to provide this curriculum and supporting materials based on our beloved “Owney the Dog.” May the lessons provide inspiring and meaningful interdisciplinary experiences for students in your classroom.