Owen family collection, 1826-1967, bulk 1830-1890
A Guide to the Collection at the Indiana University Archives
Electronic finding aid encoded by Dina M. Kellams
Indiana University Office of University Archives and Records Management
1320 East Tenth Street
Herman B Wells Library E460
Bloomington, IN 47405-7000
Owen family collection, 1826-1967, bulk 1830-1890
.6 cubic feet
Materials are in English.
Indiana family headed by Robert Owen, who
purchased Harmony from the Rappites in Posey County, Indiana, with the intention of
establishing a utopian society, New Harmony. Owen's three sons were major players in the
introduction of geology, biology, and psychology in Indiana and the United States.
Collection includes correspondence, speeches, and publications of Robert Owen and his
descendants. Most prominently featured in the collection are Owen's sons David Dale,
Richard, and Robert Dale. Some materials are photocopies of manuscripts held by other
This collection is open for research.
Advance notice is required.
Born in Newton, Montgomeryshire, North Wales, March 14, 1771, Robert Owen first
introduced important social reforms as a cotton manufacturer in New Lanark, Scotland. In
January, 1825, Owen purchased Harmony from the Rappites in Posey County, Indiana, with
the intention of establishing a utopian society - New Harmony. Although this venture
eventually failed, Owen's three sons - Robert Dale, Richard Dale, and David Dale - were
major players in the introduction of geology, biology, and psychology in Indiana and the
United States (a fourth son, William Dale, died just as he was becoming known).
Individually, Robert Dale and David Dale were largely responsible for the creation of
the Smithsonian Institute and the organization of the United States Geological
Robert Dale Owen, the eldest son, was born in Glasgow, November 7, 1801 and educated at
Fellensberg College near Berne, Switzerland. He came to the United States with his
father to assist him in his efforts of founding New Harmony. In 1832, Owen married Mary
Jane Robinson of New York. They settled in New Harmony, where he was elected a member of
the Legislature 1835- 1838. Owen's political career continued throughout his life: from
1843 to 1847, he represented the First District of Indiana in Congress, where he took an
active part in settling the northwest boundary question and introduced the bill
organizing the Smithsonian Institution. In 1850, he was a member of the Indiana
Constitutional Convention; he traveled to Naples, Italy, in 1853, as U.S. Charge
d'affaires, and from 1855 to 1858, he held the position as minister. Owen published many
works on several topics, including "Outlines of System of Education at New Lanark,"
"Discussion with Origen Bachelor on the Personality of God and the Authenticity of the
Bible," and his autobiography, "Threading my Way."
David Dale Owen was born in New Lanark in 1807. He too accompanied his father to New
Harmony, though he returned to Europe to study chemistry and geology at the University
of London. After only a year, he returned to the United States to enter the Ohio Medical
College at Cincinnati, from which he received a M.D. degree in 1835. In 1837, David Dale
became the the first State Geologist of Indiana, assigned to conduct a geological
reconnaissance of the state. Indiana Governor James Whitcomb was so impressed with
Owen's work that when he became commissioner of the Federal Land Office in Washington,
he selected Owen to lead a mineral survey of nearly 11,000 sq. miles of the Northwest
Territory. From 1847-1852, Owen lead the geological survey of more of the Northwest
Territory, chiefly the area now comprising Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, and parts of
Illinois and Nebraska, with his brother Richard Dale assisting. From 1854-1858 David
Dale served as the first State Geologist of Kentucky; 1858- 1859 State Geologist of
Arkansas, and in 1859 he was reappointed State Geologist in Indiana. David Dale Owen
died November 13, 1860. After his death, his Richard Dale succeeded him as State
Richard Owen, born January 6, 1810 in New Lanark, Scotland, also traveled to New Harmony
with his father in 1827. After serving in the Mexican War, he returned to New Harmony to
assist his brother David in the geological survey of parts of the Northwest Territory.
In 1849, Richard accepted a position as chair of natural science at the Western Military
Institute of Kentucky, a position he held for 8 years. In 1858, Owen received his M.D.
at the Nashville (Tennessee) Medical College. After his brother David's death in 1860,
Richard became the State Geologist of Indiana and in 1861, a member of the Indiana
University faculty. Dr. Owen was called from this position, however, at the outbreak of
the Civil War. He returned to his duties as professor at the University in 1864, a
position he held until 1879. After his retirement, Owen continued his scientific studies
in New Harmony. It was in New Harmony that he died on March 24, 1890, after mistakenly
drinking embalming fluid.
Organized into five series: Robert Owen; David Dale Owen; Richard Owen; Robert Dale
Owen; and Owen family descendants.
Scope and Content Note
Organized into five series, the Owen family collection consists of correspondence,
speeches, and publications of the descendants of Robert Owen.
The Robert Owen series, 1826-1850, consists of correspondence and a single publication
of patriarch Robert Owen. The correspondence subseries consists entirely of photocopies
of correspondence held by a repository in England. The most frequent correspondent is
Robert Peel about negotiations between Britain and the United States over the Oregon
The second series, David Dale Owen, 1844-1859, includes three reports and reproductions
of his geological drawings. The reports include "Geological Reconnoissance of the State
of Indiana made in the year 1837, in Conformity to an Order of the Legislature" (known
also as the first geological survey of Indiana), "Geological Report on the Marble Hill
Quarry" (1853), and an 1844 "Report of a Geological Exploration of Part of Iowa,
Wisconsin, and Illinois."
The Richard Owen series consists of correspondence, publications, speeches. Within the
correspondence subseries, there is a mix of originals and photocopies of originals held
by another repository. Correspondents include Indiana Governor Conrad Baker and Indiana
University professors Theophilus Wylie and David H. Maxwell.
The Robert Dale Owen series consists almost entirely of photocopies of original
correspondence and speeches from 1830 to 1865. Prominently featured in the
correspondence subseries is RDO's father, Robert Owen. The speeches subseries includes
copies of addresses made to the House of Representatives.
The fifth and final series, Owen family descendants, includes correspondence of Caroline
Dale Owen Snedeker and Malcolm Dale Owen, grandniece and grandson of Richard Dale Owen,
with Indiana University officials about the Owen family.
The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in
IUCAT, the IU Libraries' online
catalog. Materials about related topics, persons or places can be found by searching the
catalog using these terms.
--Faculty --History --19th century --Sources.
Owen family --Archives.
Owen, David Dale,
Owen, Robert Dale,
Owen, Robert Dale,
Owen, Robert, 1771-1858.
Owen, Richard, 1810-1890.
Owen, Robert Dale, 1801-1877.
Copyright interests for this collection have not been transferred to the Trustees of
Indiana University. For more information, contact the Indiana University
[Item], Owen family collection, Collection C89, Office of University Archives and
Records Management, Indiana University, Bloomington.
Processed by Dina M. Kellams.
Completed in 2000.
Robert Owen, 1826-1850
"Lord Aberdeen" (George Hamilton Gordon), 30 Apr. 1826,
Peel, Robert, 1846-1847
"My --- wife and daughters," 27 Aug. 1830
"Letters to the Human Race on the Coming Universal Revolution,"
David Dale Owen, 1844-1859
"Report of a Geological Exploration of Part of Iowa, Wisconsin, and
Illustrations for "Report of a Geological Exploration...,"
"A Geological Report on the Marble Hill Quarry,"
"Report of a Geological Reconnoissance of the State of Indiana, made
in the year 1837, in Conformity to an Order of the Legislature,"
Richard Owen, 1834-1890
Baker, Conrad, 13 Feb. 1869
Indiana University Board of Trustees, 26 Jan. 1864,
Foster, John W., 20 Sept. 1858
Maxwell, David H., 29 Aug. 1863
Owen, Robert, 3 Oct 1834,
19 June 1838
Wylie, Theophilus A., 4 Jan. 1889
Unknown - "Sir" and "Friend," 4 Jan 1854,
"Report upon the Mineral and Agricultural Resources of the Lands
owned by the Hopkins Mastodon Coal and Iron Mining and Manufacturing
Company: The Result of an Exploration,"
"Report of Geological Examination made on the Lands of the Wabash
Petroleum and Coal Mining Company, in Warren, Fountain and Parke
after Oct. 1871
"Report to the Trustees of Purdue University,"
"The Dynamics of Land-Forming,"
Questionnaire and draft of Richard's biography for T.A. Wylie's
Indiana University: Its History, 1883
"British Earthquakes and their Seismic Relations,"
"Notes on Various Subjects,"
"'Honor to the Illustrious Dead': A Lecture on Behalf of the Mount
"Happiness and Home, Temporal and Eternal: A Farewell Address,
Delivered at the College Chapel of the Indiana State University,"
Robert Dale Owen, 1830-1865
Allsop, Anna (?), 8 Oct. 1845
Brinton, Joseph D., 24 Jan. 1865
Harris, H. J., undated
Owen's handwritten copy of letter: Prof. W. C. Larrabee to President
Franklin Pierce, 18 Jan. 1853
Owen, Caroline Dale, 4 Jan 1830,
Owen, Robert, 1831-1858
Watts, R., 26 Dec. 1865
Owen to ? regarding payment on an outstanding bill, undated
"Address touching the Influence and Progress of Literature and the
Sciences: Delivered before the Philomathean Society of the Indiana
University at the Annual Commencement, September, 1838,"
"Address touching an Error of General Prevalance in Society;
Delivered in the University Chapel, before the Monroe County Lyceum, on
Commencement Day, September 1841,"
"The Theory of Tariff Protection,"
"Annexation of Texas. Speech of Mr. Owen, of Indiana, delivered in
the House of Representatives, May 21, 1844,"
"Native Americanism. Extract from an Address delivered at Madison,
Indiana, July 26, 1844,"
Owen family descendants, 1856-1967