Posts Tagged ‘U.S. Postal Service’

Owney the Postal Service Mascot

Owney the Postal Service Mascot

On this bike ride I went to meet a dog named Owney. Also known by the nickname “Globe-trotter,” Owney was a scruffy terrier-mix mutt, who was nation’s most famous canine during his lifetime.

Owney first wandered into a Post Office in Albany, New York in 1888, and eventually went on to become a world-travelling mascot for The U.S. Postal Service.  It is thought that Owney’s original owner was might have been a postal clerk who let the dog walk with him to work.  Then at some point, his owner moved away and Owney stayed on at the post office where he had made a number of new friends, becoming a regular fixture there. Others speculate that Owney was homeless before wandering into the post office. Whatever the case may be, once he wandered in to the Albany Post Office, Owney found himself a new home and a new family.

Owney was attracted to something about the mailbags. Perhaps it was the texture, or maybe the scent. No one really knows for sure. Anyway, he liked them so much that he would come in and make himself at home among them.  In cold weather, postal workers would even bundle him in mailbags to help keep him warm. Owney became somewhat of a guardian of the bags and the mail in them, and would not allow anyone other than mail clerks to touch or handle the bags.  In fact, Owney liked the mailbags so much that he soon began to follow them when they left Albany.

At first Owney accompanied the mail bags onto mail wagons. Eventually, he also began to follow the bags that were loaded onto the Railway Post Office trains. Owney rode the trains across the state, and eventually around the country. Then, in 1895, Owney made an around-the-world trip, traveling with mailbags on trains and steamships from the Tacoma, Washington, sailing for China and Japan and through the Suez Canal before sailing back to New York City.  He then returned to Albany. Over the next decade Owney traveled by train over 140,000 miles, following postal workers and mailbags almost everywhere they traveled.

At a time when train wrecks were all too common, no train on which Owney rode was ever involved in a wreck. So railway mail clerks considered him a good luck charm, and adopted Owney as their unofficial mascot for the next nine years. Clerks along his routes would mark Owney’s travels by placing metal baggage tags with each city’s name on his collar. Each time Owney returned home to Albany, the clerks there would see the tags and find out where Owney had been.

After a while Postmaster General John Wanamaker, who was one of Owney’s many fans, learned that his collar was weighed down by an ever-growing number of tags. So he gave Owney a vest on which to wear and display the “trophies.” Postmaster Wanamaker also declared that Owney was the Official Mascot of the Rail Mail Service.

By the spring of 1897 Owney was in poor health. He had been “retired” from traveling and was living with a postal worker in St. Louis, Missouri.  But the trains and the dog could not be separated for long, and by the summer he was again riding the rails.

On June 11, 1897, a postal worker in Toledo, Ohio was showing off Owney and his collection of tags to a local newspaper reporter. Owney, who was an old dog by then and still in poor health, was agitated and barking. He then turned and bit the postal worker on the hand.  The postal worker spread the word that Owney was mad, and the Toledo postmaster summoned the town marshall, who shot him, thus bringing a sad ending to both the life and the career of the famous little mutt.

Despite his one fatal gaff, Owney was still a beloved dog. Postal clerks raised funds to have Owney preserved, and he was given to the Post Office Department’s headquarters in here in D.C. Owney later made appearances in St. Louis at the 1904 World’s Fair, and the Post Office Department’s exhibit at the Sesquicentennial exhibit in Philadelphia, before returning to D.C.  In 1911, the department transferred Owney to the Smithsonian Institution, where he was put on display in the National Museum of American History.  In 1993 he moved to The National Postal Museum, where he has remained ever since.

After over 100 years, Owney continues to remain popular. In 2011, Owney was deemed worthy of depiction on a U.S. postage “forever” stamp. Owney has also been the main character in five hard cover books, a graphic novel entitled “The Secret Around-the-World Adventures of Owney the Postal Dog,” and an ebook entitled “Owney the Mail Pouch Pooch,” which features Owney’s theme song entitled “Owney — Tales From The Rails,” sung my country music artist Trace Adkins.  Owney also has his own blog, as well as a Facebook and Twitter pages.  Owney even has his own interactive iPhone app which can be downloaded for free at the iTunes store.

Owney can be seen on display in the Smithsonian’s National Postal Museum, wearing his vest and surrounded by some of the over 1,000 tags that he accumulated on his travels. Many of Owney’s tags did not survive, but museum currently has 372 Owney tags in its collections. The National Postal Museum is located at 2 Massachusetts Avenue (MAP), next to Union Station in northeast D.C.’s Swampoodle neighborhood. The Museum is open from 10:00am to 5:30pm daily except for Christmas. And you can’t beat the price of admission – it’s free.

Owney03     Owney02     Owney05

PostalMuseum01     Owney01a     Owney0a

A "Holiday Mail for Heroes" Ride

A “Holiday Mail for Heroes” Ride

On this lunchtime bike ride I rode by the National Headquarters for the American Red Cross. Although I have ridden to their building before, I did so again on this ride so that I could write this blog post to give recognition to the organization’s sponsorship of the “Holiday Mail for Heroes” program.

I have recently started seeing a number of Facebook posts encouraging people to send Christmas cards addressed to “A Recovering American Soldier” or “Any Wounded Soldier” to Walter Reed Hospital.  However, you should know that these cards will not reach their intended recipients.  The former Walter Reed Army Medical Center closed and merged with the National Naval Medical Center to form the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center (WRNMMC) in Bethesda, Maryland. And in keeping with a decision by the Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Transportation Policy, which was made to ensure the safety and well being of patients and staff at medical centers throughout the Department of Defense, the WRNMMC will not be accepting cards or packages for soldiers during the holidays.

Additionally, the U.S. Postal Service is no longer accepting “Any Service Member” or “Any Wounded Service Member” letters or packages. Mail to “Any Service Member” that is deposited into a mail collection box will not be delivered.

If you would like to send a Christmas card or holiday letter to a service member, sending it through the Red Cross-sponsored “Holiday Mail for Heroes” program would be a good and reliable choice. However, beginning this year the program will be taking on a different look. Red Cross chapters across the United States and Red Cross offices on military installations overseas will take complete control of the program. There will no longer be a national Holiday Mail for Heroes P.O. Box to which cards can be sent.

Moving forward, local Red Cross offices will collect, sort, and distribute the holiday cards using an events-based approach in their local communities.  Local Red Cross offices will hold events to sign or make holiday cards, and schedule card-sorting times. They will then coordinate card delivery to the military, vets and families in their communities.  These changes will allow local Red Cross offices to better concentrate on reaching out to the members of the military, veterans and families in their community – neighbors helping neighbors.

So contact your local Red Cross chapter directly to find out if they are participating.  If they are, consider doing the same thing.  However, if your local chapter does not have any events, you can still help by making a donation that will help them continue helping service members and veterans separated from their families this holiday season due to deployments and hospital stays.

DukeEllingtonBirthplace01

Duke Ellington’s Birthplace

The Duke Ellington Building at 2121 Ward Court (MAP) currently stands on the northwest D.C site where Edward Kennedy “Duke” Ellington was born in 1899.   A plaque denoting Ellington’s birth was installed on the building in 1990, and a mural recognizing Ellington’s connection to the city was added in November of 2011.  The building now houses a branch of the U.S. Postal Service.

Born to parents who were both musicians, Ellington began playing the piano at the age of seven. However, despite taking piano lessons, Ellington was more interested in playing baseball than tickling the ivories.  He enjoyed playing with other boys in his West End neighborhood, and once recalled that “President Roosevelt would come by on his horse sometimes, and stop and watch us play.”  Later on, Ellington’s first job was selling peanuts at Washington Senators baseball games.  Had Ellington chosen to continue to pursue baseball instead of music, the world may not have remembered him.  But by pursuing music, Duke Ellington became known internationally as one of the most pivotal figures in the history of jazz.

However, Ellington himself did not categorize his music as “jazz.”  Rather, he embraced the phrase “beyond category” and referred to his music as belonging to a more general musical genre which he called “American Music.”  Ellington eventually went on to originated over a thousand compositions during a career that spanned over 50 years, taking him to New York, and tours of Europe.  But he always continued to return to where it all began, right here in D.C.

Duke01a
[Click on the photos to view the full-size versions]

 

USPS01

The U.S. Postal Service Headquarters

On this day I rode to the U.S. Postal Service Headquarters because on this day in 1792, President George Washington signed legislation creating the U.S. Postal Service. The USPS headquarters building is located in southwest D.C., at 475 L’Enfant Plaza (MAP).

In 1707, the British government established the position of Postmaster General to better coordinate postal service in the colonies. In 1737, a 31-year-old American colonist named Benjamin Franklin took over as Postmaster General. He was later fired for subversive acts on behalf of the rebellious colonies in 1774. Franklin then returned to America and helped create a rival postal system for the emerging nation. The next year he was reappointed postmaster general by himself and other Continental Congress members.

Although the Articles of Confederation written in 1781 authorized Congress to establish and regulate post offices from one State to another, the formation of an official U.S. Postal Service remained a work in progress until February 20, 1792, when President Washington formally created the U.S. Postal Service with the signing of the Postal Service Act. The act outlined in detail Congressional power to establish official mail routes. The act also made it illegal for postal officials to open anyone’s mail. In 1792, a young American nation of approximately 4 million people enjoyed federally funded postal services. The cost of sending a letter ranged from 6 cents to 12 cents. Under Washington, the Postal Service administration was headquartered in Philadelphia. Later, in 1800, it followed other federal agencies to the nation’s new capital in Washington, D.C.

The Postal Service was transformed from a Federal agency into a corporation run by a board of governors in 1971 following passage of the Postal Reorganization Act. Today, the modern USPS sorts and delivers more than 700 million pieces of mail each day, except Sunday. It has the nation’s largest retail network, which is larger than McDonald’s, Starbucks and Wal-Mart in this country, combined. It is the nation’s 2nd largest civilian employer, with more than 211,000 employees. It has the world’s largest civilian fleet of vehicles, with approximately 212,000 cars and truck, at last count. The Postal Service also moves and delivers mail using planes, trains, boats, ferries, helicopters, subways, float planes, hovercraft, mule, and by foot. There are even some routes in the country where the mail travels by bicycle.

USPS02     USPS03
[Click on the thumbnails above to view the full size photos]