|Birth Day:||May 14, 1771|
|Death Date:||17 November 1858(1858-11-17) (aged 87)
Newtown, Montgomeryshire, Wales
|Birth Place:||Newtown, Montgomeryshire, Wales, Wales|
|#1||David Dale Owen||Children||N/A||N/A||N/A|
|#3||Robert Dale Owen||Children||N/A||N/A||N/A|
As per our current Database, Robert Owen died on 17 November 1858(1858-11-17) (aged 87)
Newtown, Montgomeryshire, Wales.
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Robert Owen was born in Newtown, a small market town in Montgomeryshire, Wales, on 14 May 1771, to Anne (Williams) and Robert Owen. His father was a saddler, ironmonger and local postmaster; his mother was the daughter of a Newtown farming family. Young Robert was the sixth of the family's seven children, two of whom died at a young age. His surviving siblings were William, Anne, John and Richard.
While in Manchester, Owen borrowed £100 from his brother William, so as to enter into a partnership to make spinning mules, a new invention for spinning cotton thread, but exchanged his business share within a few months for six spinning mules that he worked in rented factory space. In 1792, when 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, 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.
By the early 1790s, Owen's entrepreneurial spirit, management skills and progressive moral views were emerging. In 1793, he was elected a member of the Manchester Literary and Philosophical Society, where the ideas of the Enlightenment were discussed. He also 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.
On a visit to Scotland, Owen met and fell in love with Ann (or Anne) Caroline Dale, daughter of David Dale, a Glasgow philanthropist and the proprietor of the large New Lanark Mills. After their marriage on 30 September 1799, the Owens set up home in New Lanark, but later moved to Braxfield, Scotland.
In July 1799 Owen and his partners bought the New Lanark mill from David Dale, and Owen became its manager in January 1800. Encouraged by his management success in Manchester, Owen hoped to conduct the New Lanark mill on higher principles than purely commercial ones. It had been established in 1785 by David Dale and Richard Arkwright. Its water power provided by the falls of the River Clyde turned its cotton-spinning operation into one of Britain's largest. About 2,000 individuals were involved, 500 of them children brought to the mill at the age of five or six from the poorhouses and charities of Edinburgh and Glasgow. 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 Owen to improve their workers' lives.
Owen raised the demand for an eight-hour day in 1810 and set about instituting the policy at New Lanark. By 1817 he had formulated the goal of an eight-hour working day with the slogan "eight hours labour, eight hours recreation, eight hours rest".
However, some of 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. The new investors, who included Jeremy Bentham and the well-known Quaker William Allen, were content to accept a £5,000 return on their capital. The ownership change also provided Owen with a chance to broaden his philanthropy, advocating improvements in workers' rights and child labour laws, and free education for children.
In 1813 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. 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. However, Owen developed his own, pro-socialist outlook. In addition, Owen as a deist, criticised organised religion, including the Church of England, and developed a belief system of his own.
Owen embraced socialism in 1817, a turning point in his life, and began pursuing what he described as a "New View of Society". He outlined his position in a report to the committee of the House of Commons on the country's Poor Laws. In addition, as misery and trade stagnation after the Napoleonic Wars captured national attention, the government invited Owen to offer advice on what to do to alleviate the industrial concerns. Although Owen attributed the immediate misery to the wars, he argued that the underlying cause was competition of human labour with machinery, and recommended setting up self-sufficient communities.
In 1817, 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. He 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.
Owen's work at New Lanark continued to have significance in Britain and continental Europe. He was a "pioneer in factory reform, the father of distributive cooperation, and the founder of nursery schools." His schemes for educating his workers included opening an Institute for the Formation of Character at New Lanark in 1818. This and other programmes at New Lanark provided free education from infancy to adulthood. In addition, he zealously supported factory legislation that culminated in the Cotton Mills and Factories Act of 1819. Owen also had interviews and communications with leading members of the British government, including its premier, Robert Banks Jenkinson, Lord Liverpool. He also met many of the rulers and leading statesmen of Europe.
Owen and his son William sailed to America in October 1824 to establish an experimental community in Indiana. In January 1825 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. George Rapp's Harmony Society, the religious group that owned the property and had founded the communal village of Harmony (or Harmonie) on the site in 1814, decided in 1824 to relocate to Pennsylvania. Owen renamed it New Harmony and made the village his preliminary model for a Utopian community.
To test the viability of his ideas for self-sufficient working communities, Owen began experimenting in communal living in America in 1825. Among the most famous efforts was the one set up at New Harmony, Indiana. Of the 130 identifiable communitarian experiments in America before the American Civil War, at least 16 were Owenite or Owenite-influenced. New Harmony was Owen's earliest and most ambitious of these.
Social experiments also began in Scotland in 1825, when Abram Combe, an Owenite, attempted a utopian experiment at Orbiston, near Glasgow, but this failed after about two years. In the 1830s, additional experiments in socialistic cooperatives were made in Ireland and Britain, the most important being at Ralahine, established in 1831 in County Clare, Ireland, and at Tytherley, begun in 1839 in Hampshire, England. The former proved a remarkable success for three-and-a-half years until the proprietor, having ruined himself by gambling, had to sell his interest. Tytherley, known as Harmony Hall or Queenwood College, was designed by the architect Joseph Hansom. This also failed. Another social experiment, Manea Colony in the Isle of Ely, Cambridgeshire, launched in the late 1830s by William Hodson, likewise an Owenite, but it failed in a couple of years and Hodson emigrated to the United States. The Manea Colony site has been excavated by Cambridge Archaeology Unit (CAU) based at the University of Cambridge.
Although Owen sought to build a "Village of Unity and Mutual Cooperation" south of town, his grand plan was never fully realised, and Owen returned to Britain to continue his work. During his long absences from New Harmony, Owen left the experiment under the day-to-day management of his sons, Robert Dale Owen and William Owen, and his business partner, Maclure. However, New Harmony proved to be an economic failure, lasting about two years, although it had attracted over a thousand residents by the end of its first year. The socialistic society was dissolved in 1827, but many of its scientists, educators, artists and other inhabitants, including Owen's four sons, Robert Dale, William, David Dale, and Richard Dale Owen, and his daughter Jane Dale Owen Fauntleroy, remained at New Harmony after the experiment ended.
Other experiments in the United States included communal settlements at Blue Spring, near Bloomington, Indiana, at Yellow Springs, Ohio, and at Forestville Commonwealth at Earlton, New York, as well as other projects in New York, Pennsylvania, and Tennessee. Nearly all of these had ended before New Harmony was dissolved in April 1827.
Although Owen made further brief visits to the United States, London became his permanent home and the centre of his work in 1828. After extended friction with William Allen and some other business partners, Owen relinquished all connections with New Lanark. He 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". Having invested most of his fortune in the failed New Harmony communal experiment, Owen was no longer a wealthy capitalist. However, he remained the head of a vigorous propaganda effort to promote industrial equality, free education for children and adequate living conditions in factory towns, while delivering lectures in Europe and publishing a weekly newspaper to gain support for his ideas.
In 1832 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. The London exchange continued until 1833, a Birmingham branch operating for just a few months until July 1833. Owen also became involved in trade unionism, briefly leading the Grand National Consolidated Trade Union (GNCTU) before its collapse in 1834.
Socialism first became current in British terminology in discussions of the Association of all Classes of all Nations, which Owen formed in 1835 and served as its initial leader. Owen's secular views also gained enough influence among the working classes to cause the Westminster Review to comment in 1839 that his principles were the creed of many of them. However, by 1846, the only lasting result of Owen's agitation for social change, carried on through public meetings, pamphlets, periodicals, and occasional treatises, remained the Co-operative movement, and for a time even that seemed to have collapsed.
As Owen grew older and more radical in his views, his influence began to decline. Owen published his memoirs, The Life of Robert Owen, in 1857, a year before his death.
Although he had spent most of his life in England and Scotland, Owen returned to his native village of Newtown at the end of his life. He died there on 17 November 1858 and was buried there on 21 November. He died penniless apart from an annual income drawn from a trust established by his sons in 1844.
Spiritualists claimed after Owen's death that his spirit had dictated to the medium Emma Hardinge Britten in 1871 the "Seven Principles of Spiritualism", used by their National Union as "the basis of its religious philosophy".
Currently, Robert Owen is 251 years, 6 months and 14 days old. Robert Owen will celebrate 252nd birthday on a Sunday 14th of May 2023.
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