Owen, Robert

SUBJECT AREA: Textiles
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b. 14 May 1771 Newtown, Montgomeryshire, Wales
d. 17 November 1858 Newtown, Montgomeryshire, Wales
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Welsh cotton spinner and social reformer.
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Robert Owen's father was also called Robert and was a saddler, ironmonger and postmaster of Newtown in Montgomeryshire. Robert, the younger, injured his digestion as a child by drinking some scalding hot "flummery", which affected him for the rest of his life. He developed a passion for reading and through this visited London when he was 10 years old. He started work as a pedlar for someone in Stamford and then went to a haberdasher's shop on old London Bridge in London. Although he found the work there too hard, he stayed in the same type of employment when he moved to Manchester.
In Manchester Owen soon set up a partnership for making bonnet frames, employing forty workers, but he sold the business and bought a spinning machine. This led him in 1790 into another partnership, with James M'Connel and John Kennedy in a spinning mill, but he moved once again to become Manager of Peter Drink-water's mill. These were all involved in fine spinning, and Drinkwater employed 500 people in one of the best mills in the city. In spite of his youth, Owen claims in his autobiography (1857) that he mastered the job within six weeks and soon improved the spinning. This mill was one of the first to use Sea Island cotton from the West Indies. To have managed such an enterprise so well Owen must have had both managerial and technical ability. Through his spinning connections Owen visited Glasgow, where he met both David Dale and his daughter Anne Caroline, whom he married in 1799. It was this connection which brought him to Dale's New Lanark mills, which he persuaded Dale to sell to a Manchester consortium for £60,000. Owen took over the management of the mills on 1 January 1800. Although he had tried to carry out social reforms in the manner of working at Manchester, it was at New Lanark that Owen acquired fame for the way in which he improved both working and living conditions for the 1,500-strong workforce. He started by seeing that adequate food and groceries were available in that remote site and then built both the school and the New Institution for the Formation of Character, which opened in January 1816. To the pauper children from the Glasgow and Edinburgh slums he gave a good education, while he tried to help the rest of the workforce through activities at the Institution. The "silent monitors" hanging on the textile machines, showing the performance of their operatives, are famous, and many came to see his social experiments. Owen was soon to buy out his original partners for £84,000.
Among his social reforms were his efforts to limit child labour in mills, resulting in the Factory Act of 1819. He attempted to establish an ideal community in the USA, to which he sailed in 1824. He was to return to his village of "Harmony" twice more, but broke his connection in 1828. The following year he finally withdrew from New Lanark, where some of his social reforms had been abandoned.
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Bibliography
1857, The Life of Robert Owen, Written by Himself, London.
Further Reading
G.D.H.Cole, 1965, Life of Robert Owen (biography).
J.Butt (ed.), 1971, Robert Owen, Prince of Cotton Spinners, Newton Abbot; S.Pollard and J.Salt (eds), 1971, Robert Owen, Prophet of the Poor. Essays in Honour of the
Two-Hundredth Anniversary of His Birth, London (both describe Owen's work at New Lanark).
RLH

Biographical history of technology. - Taylor & Francis e-Librar. . 2005.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Owen, Robert — born May 14, 1771, Newtown, Montgomeryshire, Wales died Nov. 17, 1858, Newtown Welsh manufacturer and philanthropist. At his New Lanark cotton mills (Lanarkshire, Scot.), in partnership with Jeremy Bentham, he set up innovative social and… …   Universalium

  • Owen, Robert — ► (1771 1858) Reformador social británico. Fue el principal representante de Gran Bretaña del pensamiento político asociacionista. * * * (14 may. 1771, Newtown, Montgomeryshire, Gales–17 nov. 1858, Newtown). Industrial y filántropo galés. En su… …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • Owen, Robert — (1771–1858) Welsh social reformer. Owen is best remembered as a campaigner against the abuses of the industrial revolution, and for the model cotton factory he set up in New Lanark. In political philosophy he was an early advocate of communal… …   Philosophy dictionary

  • Owen,Robert — Ow·en (ōʹĭn), Robert. 1771 1858. Welsh born British manufacturer and social reformer who attempted to establish a cooperative community at New Harmony in Indiana (1825 1828). * * * …   Universalium

  • OWEN, ROBERT —    a Socialist reformer, born in Montgomeryshire; became manager of a cotton mill at New Lanark, which he managed on Socialist principles, according to which all the profits in the business above five per cent, went to the workpeople; in… …   The Nuttall Encyclopaedia

  • OWEN, Robert — (1771 1858)    a Scot who promoted SOCIALISM and communal living. Attacking the individualist superstition he believed in progress and the power of education to REFORM individuals and SOCIETY. His Address to the Inhabitants of New Lanark (1816)… …   Concise dictionary of Religion

  • Owen, Robert — (1771 1858)    Socialist and philanthropist, b. at Newton, Montgomeryshire, had for his object the regeneration of the world on the principles of socialism. His sincerity was shown by the fact that he spent most of the fortune, which his great… …   Short biographical dictionary of English literature

  • Owen, Robert — (1771–1858) Gen Mgt British industrialist, and social reformer. Owner of a factory at New Lanark that he ran on model lines, pioneering improved working and living conditions for his employees. Author of A New View of Society (1813) …   The ultimate business dictionary

  • Owen, Robert Dale — born Nov. 9, 1801, Glasgow, Scot. died June 24, 1877, Lake George, N.Y., U.S. U.S. social reformer. In 1825 he emigrated with his father, Robert Owen, to establish a community at New Harmony, Ind. He edited the local newspaper, the New Harmony… …   Universalium

  • Owen, Robert Dale — (9 nov. 1801, Glasgow, Escocia–24 jun. 1877, lago George, N.Y., EE.UU.). Reformador social estadounidense. En 1825 emigró junto con su padre, Robert Owen, para establecer una comunidad en New Harmony, Ind. Dirigió el periódico local, New Harmony… …   Enciclopedia Universal

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