60 Facts About Robert Owen


Robert Owen was a Welsh textile manufacturer, philanthropist and social reformer, and a founder of utopian socialism and the cooperative movement.


Robert Owen strove to improve factory working conditions, promoted experimental socialistic communities, and sought a more collective approach to child rearing, including government control of education.


Robert Owen gained wealth in the early 1800s from a textile mill at New Lanark, Scotland.


Robert Owen's father was a saddler, ironmonger and local postmaster; his mother was the daughter of a Newtown farming family.


Young Robert Owen was the sixth of the family's seven children, two of whom died at a young age.


Robert Owen's surviving siblings were William, Anne, John and Richard.


Robert Owen received little formal education, but he was an avid reader.


In 1792, when Robert Owen was about 21 years old, mill-owner Peter Drinkwater made him manager of the Piccadilly Mill at Manchester.


However, after two years with Drinkwater, Robert Owen voluntarily gave up a contracted promise of partnership, left the company, and went into partnership with other entrepreneurs to establish and later manage the Chorlton Twist Mills in Chorlton-on-Medlock.


Robert Owen became a committee member of the Manchester Board of Health, instigated principally by Thomas Percival to press for improvements in the health and working conditions of factory workers.


Robert and Caroline Owen had eight children, the first of whom died in infancy.


Dale, known for his benevolence, treated the children well, but the general condition of New Lanark residents was unsatisfactory, despite efforts by Dale and his son-in-law Robert Owen to improve their workers' lives.


Robert Owen tested his social and economic ideas at New Lanark, where he won his workers' confidence and continued to have success through the improved efficiency at the mill.


However, some of Robert Owen's schemes displeased his partners, forcing him to arrange for other investors to buy his share of the business in 1813, for the equivalent of US$800,000.


In 1813 Robert Owen authored and published A New View of Society, or Essays on the Principle of the Formation of the Human Character, the first of four essays he wrote to explain the principles behind his philosophy of socialistic reform.


Robert Owen had originally been a follower of the classical liberal, utilitarian Jeremy Bentham, who believed that free markets, in particular the right of workers to move and choose their employers, would release workers from the excessive power of capitalists.


Robert Owen felt that human character is formed by conditions over which individuals have no control.


Robert Owen's philosophy was influenced by Sir Isaac Newton's views on natural law, and his views resembled those of Plato, Denis Diderot, Claude Adrien Helvetius, William Godwin, John Locke, James Mill, and Jeremy Bentham, among others.


Robert Owen did not have the direct influence of Enlightenment philosophers.


Robert Owen met many of the rulers and leading statesmen of Europe.


Robert Owen adopted new principles to raise the standard of goods his workers produced.


Robert Owen was opposed to common corporal punishment, therefore, to have some form of discipline he developed the "silent monitor".


Robert Owen's strategy was successful as employees at the time cared about maintaining a good relationship with Owen in order to leave a good impression on him, since he took a different approach to employees' regulation.


Robert Owen had a significant impact on British socialism as well on unionism that helped him set an example for others.


Robert Owen grew to be known as a utopian socialist and his works are considered to reflect this attitude.


Robert Owen was an advocate for the Factory Act of 1819.


Robert Owen raised the demand for an eight-hour day in 1810 and set about instituting the policy at New Lanark.


Robert Owen embraced socialism in 1817, a turning point in his life, in which he pursued a "New View of Society".


Robert Owen outlined his position in a report to the committee of the House of Commons on the country's Poor Laws.


Robert Owen proposed that communities of some 1,200 people should settle on land from 1,000 to 1,500 acres, all living in one building with a public kitchen and dining halls.


Robert Owen further suggested that such communities be established by individuals, parishes, counties, or other governmental units.


Robert Owen believed his idea would be the best way to reorganise society in general, and called his vision the "New Moral World".


Robert Owen went on to explain that as such communities proliferated, "unions of them federatively united shall be formed in circle of tens, hundreds and thousands", linked by common interest.


Robert Owen hoped for a better and harmonious environment which promoted mutual respect, love and moral values.


Robert Owen believed everyone would have a good education and a better living condition in order to live righteously.


Robert Owen valued social and educational reforms for the middle class and rejected the capitalist power which elevated the powerful figures at the expense of others.


Robert Owen funded kids' schools, and advocated for free education, equal rights and freedom.


Robert Owen participated in legislation to improve laborers' wage and working conditions.


Robert Owen's project was considered unachievable because he did not clearly establish a guideline that stipulated the administration of properties and the conditions of memberships.


Robert Owen perceived religion as a source of fear and ignorance.


Robert Owen believed compassion, kindness and solidarity corrected bad habits, encouraged self-discipline and enhanced a person's attitude.


Similarly, Robert Owen recognized that under the existing economic system, the working class did not automatically receive the benefits of that newly created wealth.


In January 1825 Robert Owen used a portion of his own funds to purchase an existing town of 180 buildings and several thousand acres of land along the Wabash River in Indiana.


Robert Owen renamed it New Harmony and made the village his preliminary model for a Utopian community.


Robert Owen sought support for his socialist vision among American thinkers, reformers, intellectuals and public statesmen.


On 25 February and 7 March 1825, Robert Owen gave addresses in the House of Representatives to Congress and others in the US government, outlining his vision for the Utopian community at New Harmony, and his socialist beliefs.


Robert Owen's meetings were perhaps the first discussions of socialism in the Americas; they were certainly a big step towards discussion of it in the United States.


Robert Owen convinced William Maclure, a wealthy Scottish scientist and philanthropist living in Philadelphia to join him at New Harmony and become his financial partner.


Robert Owen is often quoted in a comment by Allen at the time, "All the world is queer save thee and me, and even thou art a little queer".


In 1832 Robert Owen opened the National Equitable Labour Exchange system, a time-based currency in which the exchange of goods was effected by means of labour notes; this system superseded the usual means of exchange and middlemen.


Robert Owen became involved in trade unionism, briefly leading the Grand National Consolidated Trade Union before its collapse in 1834.


Socialism first became current in British terminology in discussions of the Association of all Classes of all Nations, which Robert Owen formed in 1835 and served as its initial leader.


In 1817, Robert Owen publicly claimed that all religions were false.


In 1854, aged 83, Owen converted to spiritualism after a series of sittings with Maria B Hayden, an American medium credited with introducing spiritualism to England.


Robert Owen made a public profession of his new faith in his publication The Rational Quarterly Review and in a pamphlet titled The future of the Human race; or great glorious and future revolution to be effected through the agency of departed spirits of good and superior men and women.


Robert Owen claimed to have had medium contact with spirits of Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson and others.


Robert Owen died there on 17 November 1858 and was buried there on 21 November.


Robert Owen died penniless apart from an annual income drawn from a trust established by his sons in 1844.


Robert Owen was a reformer, philanthropist, community builder, and spiritualist who spent his life seeking to improve the lives of others.


Robert Owen envisioned a communal society that others could consider and apply as they wished.