Steve Cohn of the Smithsonian Institution isn’t taking any chances as he prepares Owney, mascot of the Railway Post Office Clerks, for his bath. And his caution is warranted: Owney’s fur is impregnated with arsenic. After wandering into a post office in 1888 and falling asleep on the mailbags, Owney was adopted by clerks who managed the delivery of letters by rail; he traveled the country and eventually the world—and when he died, he was preserved in the Smithsonian’s National Postal Museum. The arsenic was applied to keep Owney’s taxidermy-preserved body free of insect pests; today, it only makes the lives of his keepers a little more complicated. Cohn is preparing Owney for conservation treatment. He’ll get a bath and a pest-proofing less poisonous to his handlers and the public.
As a bonus, here’s the end of the 1936 documentary The Night Mail, about the early twentieth century’s tea-and-iron Internet, the postal trains of Britain’s Great Northern Railway—featuring nail-biting, high speed packet-switching choreography and a poem by W. H. Auden celebrating the heroics of fast-moving machines. All without a canine mascot, arsenic-laced or otherwise.[Owney via the Smithsonian’s visual archives blog, The Bigger Picture]