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Inventory of the Albert Kimsey Owen Papers, 1872-1909
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Descriptive Summary
  • Administrative Information
  • Biography
  • Subject matter
  • Physical description
  • Persons represented by 4 or more letters
  • Some interesting or important items
  • Bibliography

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: Albert Kimsey Owen Papers,
    Date (inclusive): 1872-1909
    Creator: Owen, Albert Kimsey
    Extent: Number of pieces: 418 pieces (including some duplicate copies)
    Repository: The Huntington Library
    San Marino, California 91108
    Language: English.

    Administrative Information


    The collection was acquired from Ray Reynolds in July, 1964 and April, 1974.


    Collection is open to qualified researchers by prior application through the Reader Services Department. For more information please go to following URL .

    Publication Rights

    In order to quote from, publish, or reproduce any of the manuscripts or visual materials, researchers must obtain formal permission from the office of the Library Director. In most instances, permission is given by the Huntington as owner of the physical property rights only, and researchers must also obtain permission from the holder of the literary rights. In some instances, the Huntington owns the literary rights, as well as the physical property rights. Researchers may contact the appropriate curator for further information.

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item], Albert Kimsey Owen Papers, The Huntington Library, San Marino, California.


    Albert Kimsey Owen (c.1848-1916<), born in Chester, Pennsylvania, son of a Quaker physician, was a utopian reformer and founder of a co-operative community in Topolobampo, Sinaloa, Mexico. By profession Owen was a civil engineer. He went to Colorado to survey a railroad route, then on to Mexico to help lay out what was to become the Mexican Central Railroad. Upon first seeing Topolobampo Bay in 1873, Owen's dream was to found the perfect city, a colony based on cooperative principles, complete with workers, artisans, and intellectuals, to be supplied by a railroad line from the United States, with entry at El Paso, across the Sierra Madred mountains, to the Bay of Topolobampo. Since this would be the shortest route to the Pacific from the great industrial cities of the United States, he envisioned Topolobampo as a center for the Pacific trade.
    In 1881 Owen was granted a concession by the Mexican government to form a company to be known as the Texas, Topolobampo and Pacific Railway and Telegraph Company. Officers from 1883-1889 were William Windom, president; Ulysses S. Grant, Jr., vice-president; and Owen, engineer. In 1885 the name was changed to the American and Mexican Pacific Railroad. On November 17, 1887 the first of the colonists arrived and began building houses and irrigation systems.
    The first railroad concession lapsed without a railroad constructed, and a new concession was granted in 1890, then renewed to 1897, to be known as the Mexican Western Railroad Company. Owen tried desperately to interest Alexander R. Shepherd, former governor of Washington, D.C. and owner of the Batopilas mine in Mexico, and A. Foster Higgins, who built the Rio Grande, Sierra Madre & Pacific Railroad from El Paso to Casas Grandes, Mexico, in continuing that railroad line across the mountains to Topolobampo.
    In the meantime difficulties developed among the colonists. The Kansas-Sinaloa Investment Company headed by C. B. Hoffman had been formed to purchase land for the colony. The colonists split into two groups, one loyal to Owen, favorable to cooperative policies; the other loyal to Hoffman and preferring private land ownership. There was litigation over the irrigation canal and water rights. By 1900 the colony had almost collapsed; by 1903 Owen was no longer part of any plan. Arthur Edward Stillwell took up the railroad concessions and built the Kansas City, Mexico and Orient Railroad. Benjamin Franics Johnston acquired most of the land and developed the sugar industry.
    Owen was a prolific writer. In addition to his works on Integral Co-operation and the Credit Foncier Company, he wrote articles and pamphlets (many of which are in the Rare Book Department of the Huntington Library) on Woman's suffrage, Currency questions, and, in later years, the auto-highway.
    Although Owen never was able to bring his utopian dream to fulfillment, before his death two railroads were built where he once had concessions, and the desert land was turned into a rich agricultural center.

    Subject matter

    The rise and fall of one of the utopian colonies so popular toward the end of the nineteenth century, and the development of railroads in Mexico under Porfirio Díaz.

    Physical description

    The letters are carbon copies written by hand on very thin paper, probably contemporary copies made for the colony by E. M. Hussey, with a few signatures and notes that may be in the writing of Owen himself. Articles and other documents, and letters copied after 1899 are generally typewritten.

    Persons represented by 4 or more letters

    Brodie, Walter M.
    6 items
    Caryl, Charles W.
    5 items
    Díaz, Profirio
    4 items
    Gibson, Albert M.
    26 items
    Hampl, Joseph
    18 items
    Herrera, Eduardo S.
    7 items
    Lovell, John W.
    6 items
    Rice, John H.
    5 items
    Romero, Matías
    4 items
    Shepherd, Alexander Robey
    4 items
    Streeter, A. J.
    5 items
    Wilbur, Alvin J.
    7 items

    Some interesting or important items

    Hale, Edward Everett.
    Letter declining to invest with group, though sympathizing with their ideals.
    Date: Sep. 30, 1889
    Grant, Jesse R.
    (son of Ulysses S. Grant). His attempts to raise money for the railroad.
    Date: Oct. 12, 1889
    Owen, Albert Kimsey.
    History of the Credit Foncier Co. (37 pages).
    Date: Aug. 1, 1893
    Owen, Albert Kimsey.
    History of the Topolobampo Colony (32 pages).
    Date: Mar. 15, 1894
    Kneeland, George S., et. al.
    Memorial to Porfirio Díaz re. the status of the colony.
    Date: Aug. 22, 1896
    Proposed agreement
    with A. K. Owen to sell his interests to John W. Lovell and/or Thomas Lake Harris.
    Date: Apr. 21, 1897


    Bernard, L. L. and Jessie. Origins of American Sociology. 1943, pp. 359-371. (HM 22 U5 B4)
    Credit Foncier of Sinaloa. April 5, 1887 (and other issues) (274745)
    Higgins, J. Wallace. The Orient Road The Railway and Locomotive Historical Society, Bulletin 95. Oct. 1956, pp. 10-46
    Kneeland, Clarrissa Abia. Reminiscences of the Credit Foncier Colony Fresno Clarion. 1945-1946. Film 328
    Owen, Albert Kimsey. Integral Co-operation. 1885. pp. 199-206. HX 661 T6 09
    Robertson, Thomas A. A Southwestern Utopia. 1947. F 1391 T64 R6