Monday, March 14, 2011

Owney the Postal Dog U.S. Postage Stamp to be Issued July 27

(USPS Press Release) With this stamp, the Postal Service commemorates Owney, the canine mascot of the Railway Mail Service. The stamp goes on sale July 27. Beloved of clerks on mail-sorting trains at the end of the nineteenth century, Owney was hailed as a symbol of good luck. Today he is an icon of American postal lore whose story highlights the historical importance of the Railway Mail Service.

Developed during the 19th century, the Post Office Department’s Railway Mail Service was an efficient and decentralized way to process mail by sorting it aboard moving trains, an innovation that became increasingly important after the Civil War. In the 1880s, during the height of the Railway Mail Service, a dog, likely a terrier mix, appeared in the Post Office in Albany, New York. Clerks took a liking to him and named him Owney. Fond of riding in postal wagons, Owney followed mailbags onto trains and soon became a good-luck charm to Railway Mail Service employees, who made him their unofficial mascot. Working in the Railway Mail Service was highly dangerous; according to the National Postal Museum, 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.

The stamp art features a new illustration of Owney by artist Bill Bond of Arlington, VA. The illustration depicts Owney in profile, facing left, with many of his famous tags and medals gleaming in the background.

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