Scope and Content of Collection
Title: Topolobampo Collection
Identifier/Call Number: MSS 0106
Special Collections & Archives, UC San Diego
9500 Gilman Drive
La Jolla, California, 92093-0175
2.3 Linear feet
(4 archive boxes and 8 oversize folders)
Date (inclusive): 1872 - 1910
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.
Owen, Albert Kimsey
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.
SERIES 1: CORRESPONDENCE
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.
SERIES 2: WRITINGS BY OWEN
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.
SERIES 3: SUBJECT MATERIALS
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.
SERIES 4: MAPS AND PLANS
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.
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 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.
Publication rights are held by the creator of the collection.
Topolobampo Collection, MSS 106. Special Collections & Archives, UC San Diego.
Subjects and Indexing Terms
Credit Foncier Company.
Díaz, Porfirio, 1830-1915
Hoffman, C. B. -- Correspondence
Kansas City, Mexico and Orient Railway Company.
Lowell, John W. -- Correspondence
Mexican Western Railroad Company.
Owen, Albert Kimsey -- Archives
Rice, J. H. -- Correspondence
Stilwell, Arthur Edward, 1861-1928 -- Correspondence
Texas, Topolobampo and Pacific Railroad and Telegraph Company.
Mexico -- History -- 1867-1910
Railroads -- Mexico
Railroads -- Mexico -- Maps
Real estate development -- Mexico -- Topolobampo
Topolobampo (Mexico) -- History
Utopias -- History -- 19th century
Utopias -- Mexico -- Topolobampo