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Topolobampo Collection
MSS 0106  
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Descriptive Summary
  • Access
  • Acquisition Information
  • Preferred Citation
  • Publication Rights
  • Historical Background
  • Scope and Content of Collection
  • Indexing Terms

  • Descriptive Summary

    Creator: Owen, Albert Kimsey
    Title: Topolobampo Collection,
    Date (inclusive): 1872 - 1910
    Extent: 2.30 linear feet (4 archive boxes and 8 oversize folders)
    Abstract: The Topolobampo Collection contains Albert Kimsey Owen's business records and promotional materials related to the colony and railroad enterprise established on Topolobampo Bay, Sinaloa, Mexico between 1872 and 1910. Materials include business correspondence, writings by Owen, legal documents, descriptions of corporate entities, promotional materials, images of the colony, maps, and plans of Pacific City. Prominent correspondents include C.B. Hoffman, John W. Lovell, J.H. Rice, and Arthur E. Stilwell. Corporations represented in the collection include the Credit Foncier Company; the Texas, Topolobampo and Pacific Railroad and Telegraph Company; the Mexican Western Railroad; and the Kansas City, Mexico and Orient Railway Company. Materials that describe day-to-day life in the colony are not represented in the collection. The collection is arranged in four series: 1) CORRESPONDENCE, 2) WRITINGS BY OWEN, 3) SUBJECT MATERIALS, and 4) MAPS AND PLANS.
    Repository: University of California, San Diego. Geisel Library. Mandeville Special Collections Library.
    La Jolla, California 92093-0175
    Collection number: MSS 0106
    Language of Material: Collection materials in English


    Collection is open for research.

    Acquisition Information

    Not Available

    Preferred Citation

    Topolobampo Collection, MSS 0106. Mandeville Special Collections Library, UCSD.

    Publication Rights

    Publication rights are held by the creator of the collection.

    Historical Background

    Albert Kimsey Owen was born in Chester, Pennsylvania, on May 17, 1847. In 1863, Owen moved to Fort Craig, New Mexico, and by 1870 he was working as a surveyor in Chester. In the spring of 1872, he was hired by William S. Rosecrans and William J. Palmer to survey the west coast of Mexico for an extension of the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad; it was then that he first reconnoitered the bay of Topolobampo, Sinaloa, Mexico.
    Owen immediately realized Topolobampo's commercial potential as a port for the mining regions of northern Mexico, as an outlet for trade with Asia, and as the terminus of a railroad that would connect the eastern seaboard with a southern point on the Pacific coast. After Palmer and Rosecrans failed to obtain a railroad concession, Owen surveyed and planned a town at Topolobampo harbor and, in 1880, organized a corporation with a group of New England investors called the Texas, Topolobampo and Pacific Railroad and Telegraph Company. In 1881, with the help of Porfirio Diaz, he obtained a concession to build the first section of track, to establish a colony and to build a city surrounding the harbor.
    Owen's vision for the colony reflected his notion of utopian socialism, which he called "Integral Co-operation," and as chairman of the Credit Foncier Company, the corporate owner of colony lands, he was able to determine much of the character of the community. Colonists were required to subscribe in writing to the tenets of the company, which espoused eliminating private wealth and the use of money in favor of a system of credits for labor. Eight hours of sleep, eight hours of work and eight hours of culture and entertainment were among the guidelines that attracted colonists. Moreover, colonists were assured that they would build, operate and own the railroad, telegraphs, banks, water supply, and that they would share equal stakes in all aspects of running the town. All members were seen as equals and had to share equally in working the land and building the colony.
    The first twenty-seven colonists arrived on November 10, 1886. Disorganized and without sufficient funding, the colony soon moved thirty miles inland to farm more productive land; later, they also rented agricultural lands at La Logia. The inability to secure a reliable source of water for agriculture and human consumption plagued colonists, and in 1891 colonists began "Los Tastes Ditch" to divert water from the Fuerte River toward Topolobampo Bay. Eventually, silting and low river flows made the canal unreliable. Colonists were also aided by Christian B. Hoffman, who created the Kansas-Sinaloa Investment Company to raise capital.
    In the early 1890s, many colonists favored individual land ownership rather than corporate ownership. This dispute divided the community and eventually caused Owen, a supporter of corporate ownership, to leave the colony and abandon his faith in the ideals of "Integral Co-operation." Subsequently, he engaged Joseph Hampl as his agent in Topolobampo. In 1900, Owen convinced Arthur E. Stilwell and a group of Kansas City bankers to form the Kansas City, Mexico and Orient Railway Company. Work began in 1903, and the line to Topolobampo was in operation by 1909. The colony was abandoned by the turn of the century.

    Scope and Content of Collection

    The Topolobampo Collection contains Albert K. Owen's business records related to the promotion and development of the land, railroad and community at the bay of Topolobampo, Sinaloa, Mexico, between 1872 and 1910. It provides a unique example of foreign capitalist development and colonization in late nineteenth-century Mexico. The collection contains correspondence, writings, legal documents, notes, published articles, maps, and plans that document the origins of Topolobampo, the ideas associated with the formation of the colony and highlight the ensuing legal and social problems that plagued the community. Materials that describe day-to-day life in the colony are not represented in the collection. The collection is arranged in four series: 1) CORRESPONDENCE, 2) WRITINGS BY OWEN, 3) SUBJECT MATERIALS, and 4) MAPS AND PLANS.
    The CORRESPONDENCE series begins with a chronological list of correspondents in the collection. The series contains letters to and from Owen, as well as business letters between individuals who played prominent or peripheral roles in the development of Topolobampo. Significant correspondents include John W. Lovell, C. B. Hoffman, J. H. Rice, and Arthur E. Stilwell. Also included are five letters addressed to Mexican President Porfirio Diaz, and Diaz' response to the "intrigues" (legal disputes over land ownership) taking place in the colony (March 3, 1894).
    The contents of Owen's letters range from his personal reasons for creating the colony (January 22, 1890) to allusions to the lawsuit and land disputes that took place in the 1890s. Early letters describe Topolobampo as a business and commercial venture. Later, more voluminous correspondence is preoccupied with the future of the community and the mundane problems of water, food supply and ownership disputes that ailed the community.
    The WRITINGS BY OWEN series contains many of Owen's promotional, analytical and narrative writings. His thoughts on utopian society are articulated in his essay "The Albert Owen Plan of Integral Cooperation." The essay "New Year's Card for Friends: What I Believe and What I Am" provides an introspective glimpse of Owen's nature. Owen's first encounter with the bay at Topolobampo is recorded in his "Topolobampo journal." The WRITINGS are arranged alphabetically.
    The SUBJECT MATERIALS series documents the logistics of the Topolobampo enterprise and includes descriptions of the numerous corporations involved in promoting and financing the project. Also included are detailed descriptions of the rail line divisions, order forms for locomotives and other equipment, railroad brochures, pamphlets, general descriptions of loans, minutes of stockholders' meetings, memoranda discussing the legal aspects of the colony, and a record of the sale and transfer of ownership of "Los Tastes Ditch."
    Important corporate entities include the Credit Foncier Company; the Texas, Topolobampo and Pacific Railroad and Telegraph Company; the Home Investment Company; the Kansas City, Mexico and Orient Railroad; the Mexican Western Railroad; and numerous "Pacific City" enterprises. Of particular interest is a paste-up promotional brochure for the Home Investment Company that contains an essay on socialism and city block plans.
    Legal documents tracing title to the Topolobampo lands are located in this series, as are newspaper articles about the colony.
    The series also contains a photograph of A. K. Owen, an engraving of the colony site on the bay and a pamphlet by the Credit Foncier Company called "The Topolobampo Colonists" that includes images of the colony.
    The MAPS AND PLANS series is arranged in three subseries: A) Colony Maps, B) Pacific City Plans and C) Railroad Maps. The Colony Maps subseries contains maps of the Topolobampo region, including the Fuerte Valley and the land distribution among the various owners. Of particular interest is the "Plat of Engineer Farm," which includes a table with the names of farmers and acreage in production.
    The Pacific City Plans subseries contains two plans for Pacific City, formerly Gonzales City, that show its layout relative to the harbor as well as the names of streets and location of plazas. Also included are detailed model block plans designed by Owen, with elevations rendered in Arab-styled architecture.
    Finally, the Railroad Maps subseries includes two maps for the proposed Texas, Topolobampo and Pacific Railroad and Telegraph Company, Owen's first railroad project. In addition, the subseries contains a map of the route for the proposed Mexican Western Railway and two maps of the completed Kansas City, Mexico and Orient Railway.

    Indexing Terms

    The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the library's online public access catalog.


    Owen, Albert Kimsey -- Archives
    Díaz, Porfirio, 1830-1915
    Credit Foncier Company
    Texas, Topolobampo and Pacific Railroad and Telegraph Company
    Mexican Western Railroad Company
    Kansas City, Mexico and Orient Railway Company
    Railroads -- Mexico
    Railroads -- Mexico -- Maps
    Utopian socialism
    Utopias -- History -- 19th century
    Utopias -- Mexico -- Topolobampo
    Real estate development -- Mexico -- Topolobampo
    Topolobampo (Mexico) -- History
    Mexico -- History -- 1867-1910


    Díaz, Porfirio, 1830-1915, -- correspondent
    Lowell, John W., -- correspondent
    Hoffman, C. B., -- correspondent
    Rice, J. H., -- correspondent
    Stilwell, Arthur Edward, 1861-1928, -- correspondent