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Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James Grant Wilson, John Fiske and Stanley L. Klos. Six volumes, New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1887-1889 and 1999. Virtualology.com warns that these 19th Century biographies contain errors and bias. We rely on volunteers to edit the historic biographies on a continual basis. If you would like to edit this biography please submit a rewritten biography in text form . If acceptable, the new biography will be published above the 19th Century Appleton's Cyclopedia Biography citing the volunteer editor





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Robert Owen

OWEN, Robert, social reformer, born in Newtown, Montgomeryshire, North Wales, 14 May, 1771; died there, 19 November, 1858. At the age of fourteen he became a clerk, and four years later acquired an interest in a cotton-mill near London. He married in 1797 Anne Caroline, daughter of David Dale, proprietor of the New Lanark cotton-mills, and soon afterward became business manager of these mills, which he conducted for many years with success. While holding this place he introduced rules for the working people which had for their object the perfection of good behavior, cleanliness, comfort, and innocent enjoyment. He published his "New Views of Society, in Four Essays, on the Formation of Human Character" (London, 1813; New York, 1825), became absorbed in these ideas, and gave up his interests at New Lanark. In 1824 he came to the United States and purchased from Frederick Rapp 20,000 acres of land, with dwellings for 1,000 persons, on Wabash river, in Posey county, Indiana, intending to establish a community there. The scheme, after a test of nearly three years, proved a failure, and early in 1827 he returned to Great Britain, where experiments of a similar nature were made, but with equally unfortunate results. In 1828 he went to Mexico, on the invitation of the government, to carry out his experiment there, but effected nothing, because the government insisted, in making the grant of land, that the state religion should be Roman Catholic. Mr. Owen continued to advocate his views both as a writer and a public speaker, and his followers were known as Owenites. In 1827 they were leaders in the labor league, out of which sprang the chartist movement. He visited the United States on several occasions, and in May, 1828, held a public debate with the Reverend Alexander Campbell, at Cincinnati, on the "Evidences of Christianity," in which Mr. Owen took agnostic ground. During his last years he was a believer in spiritualism. His writings include "Observations on the Effect of the Manufacturing System" (London, 1815); " Address to the Inhabitants of New Lanark" (1816) : "Tracts Relative to the New Society" (1817) ; "Two Memorials in Behalf of the Working Classes" (1818); "Discourses on a New System of Society, with an Account of the Society of New Lanark" (Pittsburg, 1825); "The Debate on the Evidences of Christianity, the Social System, and Scepticism," including Mr. Owen's opening speech (2 vols., Bethany, 1829) ; "Book of the New Moral World" (London, 1836) ; "The Marriage System of the New Moral World" (Leeds, 1839) ; and "The Revolution in the Mind and Practice of the Human Race" (London, 1849). See "The Life of Robert Owen, written by Himself" (London, 1857-'8), and "Life of Robert Owen," by Frederick A. Packard (Philadelphia, 1866) ; also "Robert Owen and His Social Philosophy," by William L. Sargent (London, 1860). --His son, Robert Dale, author, born in Glasgow, Scotland, 9 November, 1800" died at his summer residence on Lake George, New York, 17 June, 1877, was educated under private tutors at home, and in 1820 was sent to Emanuel yon Fellenberg's school at Hofwyl, near Berne, Switzerland, where he remained three years. In 1825 he came to the United States and aided his father in his efforts to found the colony at New Harmony, Indiana On the failure of that experiment he returned to Europe, and there spent some time in study, but returned to this country in 1827 and became a citizen. In November, 1828, he began in New York, with Frances Wright, the publication of "The Free Inquirer," a weekly paper, devoted to the promulgation of pronounced socialistic ideas and the denial of the supernatural origin of Christianity. This journal was continued until 1832, when he returned to New Harmony. He was elected to the legislature of Indiana in 1835, and sat for three terms, during which, largely owing to his influence, one half of that part of the surplus revenue of the United States that had been appropriated to the state of Indiana was devoted to the support of public schools. He was sent to congress as a Democrat in 1843, and served twice, but was defeated for a third term. Mr. Owen, in January, 1844, introduced in congress a joint resolution relative to the occupation of Oregon, which, though it failed at that session, passed during the next, and became the basis of the settlement of the northwestern boundary that was effected in 1846. He also introduced in December, 1845, the bill under which the Smithsonian institution was organized, and was made chairman of the select committee on that subject, having as a colleague John Quincy Adams, who had made two unsuccessful attempts in former sessions to procure action in the matter. He was afterward appointed one of the regents of the Smithsonian, as well as chairman of its building committee. His speeches in congress on the Oregon question, the tariff, and the annexation of Texas had a wide circulation. In 1850 he was chosen a member of the convention that assembled to remodel the constitution of Indiana, and was made chairman of its committee on rights and privileges, and then chairman of its revision committee. He was a member of the legislature in 1851, was again made chairman of the committee on revision, and was the author of a bill that secured to widows and married women independent rights of property. On the enactment of this measure, the women of Indiana presented him with a testimonial "in acknowledgment of his true and noble advocacy of their independent rights." In 1853 he was appointed charge d'affaires at Naples, and he was raised to the grade of minister in 1855, remaining as such until 1858, in the meanwhile negotiating two valuable treaties with the Neapolitan government. After his return to the United States he devoted himself to various public interests, and in 1860 he discussed with Horace Greeley, in the columns of the New York "Tribune," the subject of divorce. This discussion, reprinted in pamphlet-form, had a circulation of 60,000 copies. In 1862 he served on a commission relative to ordnance and ordnance stores, and audited claims that amounted to $49,500,000, and in 1863 he was chairman of a commission that was appointed by the secretary of war to examine the condition of the recently emancipated freedmen of the United States. The results of his observations were published as "The Wrong of Slavery, the Right of Emancipation, and the Future of the African Race in the United States" (Philadelphia, 1864). In 1863 he published an address to the citizens of Indiana, showing the disastrous consequence that would follow from the success of the effort of certain politicians to reconstruct the Union with New England left out. The Union league of New York published 50,000 copies of this letter, and the Union league of Philadelphia an additional 25,000. During the civil war he further wrote and published a letter to the president, one to the secretary of war, one to the secretary of the treasury, and another to the secretary of state, advocating the policy of emancipation as a measure that was sanctioned alike by the laws of war and by the dictates of humanity. Sec. Chase wrote that his letter to Lincoln "had more effect in deciding the president to make his proclamation than all the other communications combined." Mr. Owen was a believer in spiritualism, and was one of its foremost advocates in the United States. In 1872 he received the degree of LL.D. from the University of Indiana. He published "Outlines of the System of Education at New Lanark" (Glasgow, 1824); "Moral Physiology" (New York, 1831): "Popular Tracts" (1831) ; " Discussion with Origen Bachelor on the Personality of God and the Authority of the Bible" (1832) ; "Pocahontas: A Drama" (1837) ; "Hints on Public Architecture" (1849) : "A Treatise on the Construction of Plank-Roads" (1856);" Footprints on the Boundary of Another World" (Philadelphia, 1859); "Beyond the Breakers" (1870); " Debatable Land Between this World and the Next" (New York, 1872) ; and "Threading My Way," an autobiography (1874).-Another son, ])avid ])ale, geologist, born in Lanark-shire, Scotland, 24 June, 1807: died in New Harmony, Indiana, 13 November, 1860, followed his elder brother to Hofwyl, and then studied science under Dr. Andrew Ure at the Andersonian institution in Glasgow. In 1828 he went with his father to New Harmony, Indiana, but he subsequently went back to Europe, and spent two years in acquiring a knowledge of geology and natural history. He returned to New Harmony in 1833, and was graduated in 1835 at Ohio medical college. In 1837 the legislature of Indiana employed him to conduct a geological reconnoissance of that state, the results of which are given in his "Report of a Geological Reconnoissance in 1837" (Indianapolis, 1838). He was appointed geologist in 1839 by the United States government, under instructions from the general land office to make a minute examination of the mineral lands of Iowa, which was one of the very first geological investigations that were conducted under the authority of the National government. His results appeared as a "Report of a Geological Exploration of a Part of Iowa, Wisconsin, and Illinois, made under Instructions from the Secretary of the Treasury in 1839," with charts and illustrations (Washington, i844). In 1849 the National government employed him to conduct the survey of Minnesota territory, and appropriated $40,000 for that purpose. He continued engaged in this work for three years, and made a "Report of a Geological Exploration of a Part of Iowa, Wisconsin, and Minnesota, and, Incidentally, a Portion of Nebraska Territory " (Philadelphia, 1852), containing numerous plates, notably several on the gigantic mammal remains in Nebraska. From 1854 till 1857 he was state geologist of Kentucky, and prepared four " Reports of the Geological Survey in Kentucky," with an atlas (Frankfort, 1856-'61). He then became state geologist of Arkansas, and the results of his work in that state are given in his "Report of a Geological Reconnoissance of the Northern Counties of Arkansas" (Little Rock, 1858) and his "Report of the Middle and Southern Counties" (Philadelphia, 1860). He completed this work in 1859, and then received the appointment of state geologist of Indiana, which office he held until his death, when its completion was intrusted to his brother Richard (q. v.), who published "Report of a Geological Reconnoissance of Indiana" (Indianapolis, 1862). Dr. Owen's extensive scientific knowledge proved of assistance to him in the accomplishment of his geological work. for as a chemist he made analyses of minerals and of waters that are included in his reports; as a naturalist he described fossils new to science that were discovered in the Bad Lands of Nebraska; and as an artist he made sketches of scenery, diagrams, sections of rock strata, and maps, which were engraved to accompany his works. His museum and laboratory were regarded as among the best in the United States, and his collection of specimens was sold for $20,000 to Indiana state university.--Another son, Richard, geologist, born in Lanarkshire, Scotland, 6 January, 1810, received his early education in the Lanark grammar-school, after which he studied at Hofwyl, and then in the Andersonian institute of Glasgow. In 1828 he came to New Harmony, Indiana, and began to teach, but soon removed to Cincinnati, engaging in business. Subsequently he returned to New Harmony, where he owned a steam flour-mill, and also managed a stock-farm. In 1847 he went to the Mexican war as captain in the 16th United States infantry, and served principally under General Zachary Taylor in charge of provision-trains. At the close of the war he aided his brother, David Dale Owen, in making preparations for the geological survey of Minnesota, and in 1849, under whose direction he explored the north shore of Lake Superior, in 1849 he also became professor of natural sciences in the Western military institute of Ken-tacky, and he continued to hold that chair, after the institute became the University of Nashville, until 1858, in which year he was given the degree of M.D. by Nashville medical college. He then became assistant state geologist of Indiana, and made a survey of the state. At the beginning of the civil war he was appointed lieutenant-colonel of the 15th Indiana volunteers, and he became, in the autumn of 1861, colonel of the 60th Indiana. Dr. Owen was taken prisoner at Mumf0rdsville, but was soon exchanged, after which he served under General William T. Sherman, was at the capture of Arkansas Post and Vicksburg, also at the taking of Jackson, Mississippi, and in 1864 was with General Nathaniel P. Banks in the Red river expedition. In 1864 he accepted the chair of natural sciences in the University of Indiana, where he remained until the close of the session of 1879. Professor Owen's scientific work has been chiefly in the domain of geology. He has contributed largely to the knowledge of that science, specially as relating to Indiana, Minnesota, New Mexico, Arizona, and North Carolina. Since his retirement from collegiate work he has devoted much attention to the subject of meteorology and its connection with terrestrial magnetism, publishing numerous papers on that subject and on seismology. In 1871 he received the degree of LL. D. from Wabash college, and he is tm honorary member of the New Orleans and of the St. Louis academies of sciences, a fellow of the American association for the advancement of science, and a member of other scientific organizations. Besides his official geological reports and scientific memoirs, he is the author of a "Key to the Geology of the Globe" (Nashville, 1857).

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