Happy Halloween folks! This year for Halloween, “Derek the Depot Dog” went trick-or-treating amongst the vintage railcars dressed as the infamous postal dog, Owney!
For those who don’t know the story of Owney, here is the tale of the postal dog who traveled the world:
In the late 1800s, a New Albany postal clerk was believed to regularly bring his pooch, Owney, along on his postal endeavors. Owney loved the smells and the feel of mailbags… so much so that he remained with the other postal workers when his believed owner moved away. Almost acting as a mascot of postal service, Owney began his personal labors of escorting these mailbags. He first hopped on mail wagons, but eventually boarded trains as a part of the Railway Mail Service.
Owney traveled across the country on Railway Post Office cars, contributing to the distribution of mail. Those who noticed the dog’s efforts began commemorating Owney’s travels with tokens, tags, licenses, and more that marked the destinations he reached. Owney adorned several badges of his travels, so much so that he began having trouble moving around under the weight. Postmaster General John Wanamaker solved the issue by having a custom harness made to display Owney’s journey in a more manageable way.
Later, Owney would expand his travels across America to across the globe. In 1895 the Tacoma, Washington postmaster sent Owney on an advertising campaign for the city all over the world. Owney continued to travel by train, then occasionally on steamships when crossing bodies of water. Owner’s international escapades began in Tacoma, stretching all the way through Asia, the Middle East, and the continental US before returning to Tacoma 113 days later.
Once Owney had passed on, postal clerks began to fundraise to have him preserved and displayed as a mascot of postal service and its history. Currently, Owney is on display in the National Postal Museum, where he remains on display next to a fabricated Railway Post Office train car. He still brandishes the various tokens he collected during his postal career.
There was no better way for Derek the Depot Dog to celebrate Halloween than to dress up as the beloved Owney! To learn more about the railway postal service, visit the Historic RailPark & Train Museum. While you are here, check out our Gift Shop and take home your very own Owney!